CINCINNATI — One of the leading voices in Greater Cincinnati's response to COVID-19 likens the second booster shot vaccination authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to insurance.
"The fourth dose, as best we can tell, is sort of an insurance policy," said Dr. Stephen Feagins, chief medical officer for Mercy Health. "I actually am not going to rush to get it, a fourth dose. I'm not sure in terms of myself and my family."
With immunity beginning to wane four months after some fully vaccinated people took booster shots, the FDA authorized a second round for people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems like transplant survivor Keli Thorn.
"Even though I'm vaccinated and my immune (system) is still weakened, you just still worry what if I catch it from this or going in the store," Thorn said.
Outside high-risk groups, though, Feagins said he hardly thinks the second extra dose is essential.
"It's almost in the category of wearing masks in a sense — an extra amount of protection," Feagins said. "I believe in America that we don't have the ability to give doses and boosters every four months in perpetuity. Then, we still have over 50% of our population who received the first two doses who've not received the third dose. That's where the focus lies."
Reid Health's chief medical officer, who coordinates pandemic response in Franklin County, Indiana, said that since September most of the COVID-19 deaths in his hospital involve unvaccinated patients.
"75% of our deaths are in that category and amongst those who have had an initial vaccination but not received boosters," Dr. Thomas Huth said. "There's also significant death burden."
For such reasons, researchers think the first booster authorized could turn Pfizer and Moderna's standard mRNA vaccinations into three-shot series.
Though with an omicron subvariant spreading in Europe, doctors wary of spread in the Tri-State said the second booster authorized is available as a "just in case" safety net.
"It's really unpredictable whether or not there'll be a surge of cases," said Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati. "It's even more unpredictable (to know) will there be a surge of cases in your neighborhood."
WHO reports COVID-19 deaths are up, but cases are down
Omicron BA.2, COVID-19 subvariant, spreading across the world: What Ohioans need to know