Hundreds of Americans die from COVID every day – and the unvaccinated make up the majority of those who died and were hospitalized.
That’s according to former FDA deputy chief for vaccines Dr. Phil Krause, who said the government must focus on vaccinating the unvaccinated in order to end the pandemic.
“The problem is not that we don’t get enough reminders… The problem is that we’re not vaccinating, not reaching people who haven’t been vaccinated yet,” Krause said Thursday at an event. of the Hepatitis B Foundation in Pennsylvania.
The CDC estimates that 20% of the US population has yet to receive a dose and just over 30% have not completed the primary series.
“For me, the fact that several hundred people are dying every day from COVID is a serious public health concern,” he told Yahoo Finance after the event.
Krause, who left the FDA before recall clearances along with his colleague, Dr. Marion Gruber, has held true to that belief since leaving the agency last November.
In a November 2021 op-ed with Dr. Paul Offit of Gruber and Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, a leading vaccine expert, the trio stressed the need to target unvaccinated people and noted that only the most at risk of serious illness or death from the virus should be the focus of the recall campaign.
“We don’t believe boosters for all are necessary, even with the emergence of the omicron variant,” the trio said.
Offit previously told Yahoo Finance that he thinks the focus of recalls should be largely on older or more vulnerable populations in the United States — a point Krause agrees with.
“Boosts can increase your own cellular immunity…which is primarily responsible for protecting against mild illnesses, and it’s short-lived. Boosters have never been shown to reduce transmission,” Krause said.
And by pushing boosters on a population that doesn’t need them, it affects “the global supply of vaccines and may prolong the pandemic,” he added.
The United States averages more than 35,000 COVID cases per day and more than 2,000 deaths per week. And CDC projections show an increase in hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
But the reminder message and universal reminders have already undermined confidence in the original vaccine series – two doses of an mRNA from Moderna (MRNA) or Pfizer/BioNTech (PFE/BNTX) vaccines, or two doses of Novavax (NVAX), or a dose of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) — although they remain protective against variants, Krause told Yahoo Finance.
Putting the focus back on the unvaccinated will require a lot of public health messaging.
“I think who the message is coming from is actually very important and to reach people who have not been vaccinated it is important to involve people who believe in the value of vaccines and to amplify their message to the people who trust them,” Krause said. said.
That doesn’t mean the reinforcement isn’t important to some, but the messages will interfere with each other at the broader population level, he explained. And attention to the stimulus message has drowned out efforts to get the unvaccinated vaccinated.
Still, Krause is thrilled to see that a year later, the idea is starting to catch on.
“More and more people are recognizing the futility of continually spurring people on and the importance of refocusing on vaccinating the unvaccinated. And so, while it’s taken a long time to get there, I’m glad that the conversation is at least progressing.” he said.
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