The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Some fear boosters will hurt drive to reach the unvaccinat­ed

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The spread of COVID-19 vaccinatio­n requiremen­ts across the U.S. hasn’t had the desired effect so far, with the number of Americans getting their first shots plunging in recent weeks. And some experts worry that the move to dispense boosters could just make matters worse.

The fear is that the rollout of booster shots will lead some people to question the effectiven­ess of the vaccine in the first place.

“Many of my patients are already saying, ‘If we need a third dose, what was the point?’” said Dr. Jason Goldman, a physician in Coral Springs, Fla.

The average daily count of Americans getting a first dose of vaccine has been falling for six weeks, plummeting more than 50 percent from about 480,000 in early August to under 230,000 by the middle of last week, according to the most recently available federal data.

An estimated 70 million vaccine-eligible Americans have yet to start vaccinatio­ns, despite a summer surge in infections, hospitaliz­ations and deaths driven by the delta variant.

This is the case despite a growing number of businesses announcing vaccinatio­n requiremen­ts for their employees, including Google, McDonald’s, Microsoft and Disney. Also, big cities such as New York and San Francisco are demanding people be vaccinated to eat at restaurant­s or enter certain other businesses.

Separately, President Joe Biden announced sweeping new vaccine requiremen­ts for as many as 100 million Americans on Sept. 9. Employees at businesses with more than 100 people on the payroll will have to get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. But the mandates have yet to go into effect; the necessary regulation­s are still being drawn up.

While some workers have gotten the vaccine under pressure from their employers, many holdouts remain.

Experts have long said the key to ending the U.S. epidemic is vaccinatin­g the vast majority of the American public — perhaps as much as 90 percent. But of the more than 283 million Americans age 12 and older who are eligible for shots, only about 65 percent — 184 million — are fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Children under 12 are not yet eligible to get vaccinated, meaning only about 55 percent of the U.S. public is fully protected.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday that health officials have not lost sight of that problem. The booster effort “will not distract us from our most important focus — to get as many people as possible vaccinated with a primary series,” she said.

Meanwhile, the pandemic’s summer surge has shown signs of easing. Deaths are still running high at over 2,000 a day on average, but cases and hospitaliz­ations are trending down.

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