The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" might include receiving a fourth COVID-19 vaccine. As the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus surges in various places around the world, many countries are starting to think that a fourth dose is necessary.
Israel is leading the charge in the fight against the omicron variant by administering a fourth COVID-19 shot to the elderly (60 and older) and healthcare workers. Other countries have started to follow Israel's lead by either administering the fourth shot or simply considering it. Is the U.S. going to do the same?
Israel is now administering a fourth COVID-19 shot.
A hospital in Israel has announced that it will start administering a fourth COVID-19 shot to its staff of 150 people. The trial is meant to help doctors determine whether or not a second booster will be necessary nationwide. In Israel, there are 1,118 confirmed cases of the omicron variant. Statistics show that the number of people infected doubles every two days. The trial for the fourth COVID-19 shots will also be administered to people 60 years and older.
While Israel is seeking to lead the charge by giving a fourth COVID-19 shot, experts think that the plan could backfire. The doubts point to a possibility that too many shots in the body might cause “immune system fatigue,” which could compromise the body’s effectiveness in fighting COVID-19. This concern is heightened for elderly patients.
Other criticisms are that Israel is rushing the fourth shot without considering other alternatives like vaccinating more of the unvaccinated citizens or making sure that people who received their first dosage get their booster. Dr. Boaz Lev, the head of Israel’s advisory panel, made it clear that the cost of not vaccinating is higher. He said, “We don't have a lot of time to make decisions.”
Germany and the U.K. are considering fourth COVID-19 shot.
Germany and the United Kingdom are considering administering a fourth COVID-19 shot as the omicron variant continues to move throughout Europe. Karl Lauterbach, Germany’s Health Minister, stated that he expects that a fourth vaccination and assumes that the fourth shot “will be necessary.” But he raised concerns that shortages could dampen the country’s ability to administer the shots quickly.
Countries that are moving to get more people vaccinated with a fourth dose have come under fire from World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The director commented that there were enough vaccines distributed globally. The vaccines provided enough support to vaccinate the targeted 40 percent per country, but they needed to be distributed equitably. “No country can boost its way out of the pandemic,” he added.
Will the U.S. administer a fourth COVID-19 shot?
As other countries go ahead with a fourth COVID-19 shot, health experts in the U.S. don't think it will be necessary. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that it's too early to be thinking about the necessity of a fourth dose. He added that the priority is to track the longevity and durability of the protection afforded by the third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
When analyzing the current protection of vaccinated people, Dr. Fauci said that “if the protection is much more durable than the two-dose, non-boosted group, then we may go a significant period of time without requiring a fourth dose. So I do think it's premature — at least on the part of the United States— to be talking about a fourth dose.”
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, agreed with Dr. Fauci’s statements. She said that the third doses seem to be durable. She stated that in the future if there's science on the necessity of a fourth dose, “we will certainly be reviewing that.” Her main concern is making sure that vaccinated people receive their booster shots.