For a blissful several weeks, people in the U.S. were enjoying the steady decline of COVID. That couldn’t last forever, sadly: Cases are once again rising in the U.S overall, with nearly a 5 percent increase in infections in the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Still, many people have already pushed the pandemic to the back of their minds, as officials across the U.S. lifted most restrictions and precautions amid improving numbers. Now, recent increases in COVID cases are prompting new warnings from some of the country’s top virus experts, largely directed at those who have let their guard down.
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During an April 11 interview on MSNBC’s The ReidOut, top White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, discussed what the uptick of coronavirus infections across the country could mean for certain individuals. According to the infectious disease expert, some vaccinated people should be getting another COVID vaccination shot right now.
“I recommend you go and get the [fourth] shot if you’re over 50,” Fauci told host Joy Reid when asked if these individuals should receive another booster now or wait. “Very clear recommendation.”
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the CDC updated their authorizations and recommendations on March 29 to allow older adults and certain immunocompromised individuals the option to get a second booster shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine—as long as it has been at least four months since they were given their initial booster dose. But confusing messaging and debates among heath experts have left many in this age group unsure of whether or not they should be lining up for an additional shot.
The CDC’s updated guidance didn’t explicitly say vaccinated people over the age of 50 should get another shot. Instead, the agency only said that these individuals “may choose” to receive a second booster—stopping short of outright recommending it, which they have done in the past. According to The New York Times, the agency’s decision was aided by a recent Israel study among people 60 and older which found that rates of COVID infection and severe illness were lower in those who had received a fourth dose of the Pfizer vaccine in comparison to just three shots.
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The Israeli study doesn’t include those on the younger side of the CDC’s updated guidance, however, as some experts have noted. “I don’t think we have the data for younger people, 50 to even 60,” Monica Gandhi, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told NPR.
Other experts, like Leana S. Wen, MD, an emergency physician and research professor of Health Policy and Management at George Washington University Milken Institute of Public Health, have said that some individuals over the age of 50 might be fine holding off on the fourth shot. “Someone who is between ages 50 and 65, with no medical problems and recently had an Omicron infection, could probably wait,” Wen told CNN on April 8. “Some people might defer an additional booster as long as they are well-protected against severe illness. Others want to avoid any infection, even mild and asymptomatic infections.”
But Wen and other virus experts acknowledge that there are certain two subgroups that should be lining up for their second booster as soon as possible. This dose is “especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky confirmed in a statement.
RELATED: Virus Expert Issues New Warning to People Over 65—Even If They’re Boosted.