With the latest wave of COVID-19 waning and the demand for booster doses waning, public health is thinking about how to get shots in the arms this fall.
Given the lack of urgency surrounding the recent push for booster vaccinations, the next challenge, they say, will be to convince a public exhausted by the pandemic that another vaccine is necessary.
“Now that we’re at the back end of this wave, my focus is on what it will be like late summer and fall when, I think, we’ll have to do another vaccination campaign.” said Alex Summers, Medical Officer for Health at Middlesex London.
It can be difficult to motivate the public by judging how the demand for third-dose boosters has dwindled to less than a drop.
More than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered since it became available 17 months ago, with demand at its peak in the spring and summer of 2021.
Last week, the health unit made 6,963 rounds. Summers said about 95 percent of the doses at mass vaccination centers were Class IV boosters aimed at people age 60 or older who are immunocompromised.
But, as for the rest of the population, absorption of the third dose ceased just as the sixth wave, led by the Omicron variant, passed its peak and is declining.
Summers said the health unit is focusing on what he called a “last kilometer effort” with mobile clinics to White Oaks mall, community centers and nursing homes, as well as small clinics in shelters where there may be 10 or fewer doses.
What needs to be understood is why the booster campaign erupted after society’s harsh experience with the virus earlier this year.
The problem with boosters is that the evidence has not been clear in terms of reducing infection and that while they do increase immune responses in vulnerable populations, immunity does not last, said Saverio Stranges, chair of epidemiology and biostatistics in the Western University School of Medicine and Dentistry. .
This is why public health agencies even the World Health Organization have not pushed fourth-dose boosters to the general population. Also, there is a “good degree of protection against serious consequences of COVID-19” already in the community.
There are still a lot of viruses in the community, but in general, the disease is milder and the results are less severe, which is an indication that the virus will eventually reach an endemic stage, like influenza.
As the weather warms, Stranges predicts that more of the effects of COVID-19 will be “marginal” and that society will have to learn how to deal with it.
“I’m not saying that we need to be careless, but I do think that public officials need to convey the message that this is the new normal and to expect that there will be no cases anytime soon is not realistic,” he said.
The goal is to mitigate and reduce the dangerous consequences of COVID-19. He said the world needed to turn its attention to getting the vaccine to low-income, non-immune countries.
As vaccine research continues, by the fall there could be various targeted vaccines, such as the one expected to protect against Omicron. That’s part of the message that needs to be communicated, Summers said. While last year’s passports and credentials have been instrumental in building immunity, the story has changed.
“Part of that message might be: ‘You may have had the vaccination before, but you weren’t as protected as you would have had this vaccination,'” he said.
He expects that not everyone will seize the opportunity to gain protection. Summers said public health has a responsibility to make sure the community gets good information and instill confidence in the footage.
“There is a tool available that, this fall, will lower your risk of getting sick, lower your risk of absenteeism, lower your risk of ending up in the hospital and lower your risk of infection around you,” he said.
“That, to me, will always be worth rolling up your sleeve, and it’s a message I don’t think we can stop saying.”