Vaccine booster opposition is an ideology

There really is no other reasonable conclusion.  The anti-booster crowd is just so dedicated to their position (whether due to global vaccine equity issues or the belief that the only purpose of vaccines is to prevent severe cases) that they are just unwilling to admit that… boosters work!!  And almost assuredly are a good idea for most people who can get one.  Many of them are living in an Alpha world where the vaccines were just amazingly effective, but that’s just not the case against Delta.  They insist that, hey, we’re preventing a bunch of hospitalizations (we are and that’s great) and that’s all that matters.  A “mild” case of Covid is simply one that doesn’t land you in the hospital.  Last time I had the flu, I could barely leave my sofa for days and was completely miserable. That’s the time of “mild” illness I’d sure as hell like to avoid if an additional shot dramatically improves my chances of that (and it does!)  

What’s especially frustrating is that they have gone so far to read the clear and convincing evidence for boosters as somehow “weak.”  Apparently, anything short of beyond a reasonable doubt is not enough for this crowd.  Check out some of the negativity in yesterday’s NYT article about boosters (and the booster both-sidesism from NYT):

Well over 100 million fully vaccinated people will be eligible for boosters if the F.D.A. and C.D.C. endorse the committee’s latest recommendations, even though some scientists say that the evidence supporting boosters remains weak and that it would have been wiser to focus on reaching the unvaccinated, including abroad...

While some experts emphasized that the data was based on small groups of volunteers and short-term findings, others urged the F.D.A. to move quickly with what has fast become known as a mix-and-match approach, especially for recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which is much less widely available.

“I’m sold already,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. “We need flexibility and to improve access to everyone.”

Others said they worried that the public would end up bewildered if the government kept broadening the categories of people eligible for boosters and which vaccine could be used for extra shots.

“I hope we can do this in a way that doesn’t look like we’re changing rules all the time,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of immunology at the University of Iowa…

The experts generally agreed that the protection conferred by a single dose was inadequate, but at least some were unconvinced that the second dose would bolster that protection significantly.

The evidence is not “weak.”  It seems NYT’s lead reporter on this is firmly in the anti-booster crowd.  Notice all the discussion on “weak” evidence for boosters is about severe disease and death.  Sure, that’s most important, but there’s a lot to be said for preventing cases of Covid, period.  And I sure wish the anti-booster crowd would stop eliding that point and so clearly using motivated reasoning to make their case against boosters.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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