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COVID-19 booster shots: Why wait?

For the vaccine-eager, the CDC’s decision to slow-roll third shots is just plain dumb.

Globe staff; Vitalij Kuleshow/Adobe

Well, that was fun while it lasted, no? The safety, the security, the mask-free concert-going, the euphoria of post-vaccination hugs.

Then came the Delta variant.

And then the Provincetown cluster. So what if we all weren’t going to be dancing at midnight downstairs at the Atlantic House (no judgment here, and, yes, I’ve done that too in the before time). There were lessons to be learned. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took those lessons to heart and, depending on where you live or dine or party, well, many of the already-vaccinated are now advised to put those masks back on.


Between the arrival of Delta and the P-town cluster, word was already out that, eventually, a booster shot would be in our future. Back in April, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC that within six months to a year of vaccination, a third shot would likely be needed. But it was easy to chalk that up to Big Pharma business development.

That was then.

This week, Israel began offering those third booster shots to anyone over 60. Phone lines to the nation’s largest HMOs crashed Monday morning with people clamoring for appointments. By the end of the month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants everyone to get a booster shot, and he intends to call on the military to assist in the effort.

Meanwhile, Germany announced it would begin offering boosters in September to “pensioners” and those with compromised immune systems. The nation has a 52 percent vaccination rate.

Britain is prepared to offer a booster, beginning Sept. 6, to those over 50 and those with compromised immune systems.

This is still the official word from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration: “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. . . . We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”


And we wonder why some folks are flummoxed by the whole mask-off, mask-on if it’s Tuesday and the moon is full, don’t worry, be happy guidance.

Some of us still remember how swell it was six months ago sitting at multiple computers surfing for an available appointment, hoping the state’s website wouldn’t crash while a cohort of more than a million people all logged on at once. If COVID-19 didn’t get you, the anxiety surely would.

So exactly what is the greatest nation on earth — albeit one that so far can’t reach 30 percent of its eligible population to be vaccinated at all — waiting for?

The vaccines that would be needed for booster shots have already been stockpiled. We’re not depriving some poor nation of their vaccine stock on the open market — Wednesday’s call from the head of the World Health Organization for a booster moratorium notwithstanding. And the United States has already donated 112 million doses for international distribution.

A study by Pfizer and BioNTech scientists, not yet peer-reviewed but posted online, found diminished protection from the Pfizer vaccine from 96 percent efficacy to 83.7 percent after four to six months.

As former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb told CNBC, “My guess is sometime by September or October we will be giving booster shots to older individuals and certainly immunocompromised. I just think we’re on a slower path here.”


Shocker, right?

Sure, job number one is to get as many people as humanly possible fully vaccinated. But we all know boosters are coming. I for one am prepared to line up now. I suspect I’ll have a lot of company.

But because we have a tough time learning even from recent history, I’m also betting that somewhere in my future will be more time spent surfing for an appointment or dealing with a dysfunctional website or listening to “your call is important to us” ad nauseam. Because, as Gottlieb said, “we’re on a slower path here,” and that’s just the way it is.

Rachelle G. Cohen is a Globe opinion writer. She can be reached at rachelle.cohen@globe.com.