The CDC just released information on the effectiveness of booster shots against the Omicron variant, this is the first real life data we've gotten from the CDC on this.
One study shows a booster was 90% effective at preventing people from being admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 due to Omicron, and while 210 million Americans are fully vaccinated, only 83 million have gotten boosted and that's roughly 40% of the population.
Dr. Dyan Hes, the founder and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York, joins Newsy to discuss this data.
Lindsay Tuchman: Listening to this data, as I'm sure you've already heard, how much of a factor is knowing this information for the importance of urging people to get boosters going forward?
Dr. Dyan Hes: I think people that I know were really on board about getting vaccinated originally, and I think that since the vaccine was created and Omicron has evolved, I think people are very confused and getting very mixed messages and I especially think that many, many people that I know had Omicron in the last month, so now they're very nervous about getting a booster and I think that's causing booster hesitancy, because they're like 'wait we just had Omicron, why do we need to get the booster?' and I think all of this happens, has happened, because the CDC changes what they say every single day.
Tuchman: So, that being said, as we get through this surge, with people already having Omicron, people are still getting it in some cities, and states are still reaching that peak. What, what do you see as kind of the timeline of this playing out? Do you see more people getting boosters and that kind of weeding our way out of this surge or just what are your thoughts?
Hes: I feel like this has been the same. It's been the same kind of story every time. When the vaccine came out, the people who wanted it would, you know, crawl if they had to get it, and I feel the same way with the booster.
The people who wanted the booster were the first ones lining up. I was there, I had my kids there the day they were eligible for the booster. I believe in science. I believe that the boosters really helped with significant complications.
I think if you're high risk, get that booster as soon as possible, I believe everybody should have a booster, that's my personal opinion. I think there's this hesitancy now, like, 'oh my gosh, should we get the booster if Omicron is not that dangerous? Do we need the booster?' I mean, I think the biggest thing is getting the majority of people vaccinated number one, and then I think everybody should get their booster, but people, people are really confused, and I understand why they're confused.
Tuchman: Let's talk a little bit about speaking of confusion, but specifically regarding masks, there has been a lot of concern, especially during the Omicron surge with pediatric hospitalizations. So when it comes to kids and masking and going to school, what are your recommendations for how people can keep their kids safe right now? Especially if they can't get vaccinated yet?
Hes: So, you really don't have a choice. It depends on what your rule is, where you go to school. So, in New York state you have to wear a mask for two and up, in other states, you don't have to wear a mask until age five. So, you really have to just follow the guidelines of the school district or wherever you are living. I know in Virginia they're going to have masks optional. It's, it's very debatable.
I do believe that masks are a good way to mitigate disease in over age five, I am not convinced that under age five the masks do a darn thing because the kids are really not that verbal. It's very soggy, they all have like their mucus and buggies and the mask is very wet, and we're seeing a lot of other illnesses besides COVID like RSV, and the flu and Coxsackievirus. So, the masks really aren't preventing these little ones from getting sick.
That being said when you're six, or seven, you could say, 'oh, my mask is wet, or my mom packed me another one. I'm gonna change it out in my backpack.' So, I know the W.H.O. does not recommend masks until age five, and I kind of tend to agree with that. I also feel that there's so many rule changes that you could go to sports, and you don't have to wear a mask, you can take your mask off when you eat lunch.
So, I think that Omicron is so contagious that the kids who are not vaccinated are just gonna get Omicron at this point, and even if you're vaccinated you might get Omicron, but you won't be too sick, and you won't end up in the hospital, and that's what the vaccine was created for.
Tuchman:It does sound like you have some critiques when it comes to messaging, and rules changing, and the confusion around that. What would your thoughts be on ways to I guess more streamline the way the CDC, and other organizations, are getting messages across?
Hes: I just think that we need a better consensus among scientists. I think that you know if one part of the government says that everybody should get boosted, but then they don't go through the regular channels to approve the booster, like in children they didn't, you know people get frustrated, lawmakers get frustrated, so they're skipping steps.
Why are they skipping steps today, but they didn't skip steps with the first vaccine? Why didn't they have this hearing for the public? Were boosters tested in Children? People are asking these questions and they're legitimate questions.
I think the vaccines are safe, I'm 100% pro-vaccine, but I understand completely why people are giving push back. I think that the CDC has to do much better in messaging and come to consensus before they released statements, and then the next day backpedal and change their statement.