Vaccine Fatigue: COVID Booster Numbers Are Pretty Sad These Days

In the depths of 2020, many Americans couldn’t wait for the COVID vaccine to hit pharmacies.

Once they got their shot, some couldn’t wait for their first booster dose — or their second.

Now though, the pandemic has died down, and Americans are exhausted.

Most never bothered getting their second, third, fourth, or fifth boosters, despite aggressive marketing from the federal government. Those who did get four or five doses have inspired memes online — portrayed as fearful hypochondriacs still living in 2020 who fell for government propaganda.

Meanwhile, booster dose rates are nearing zero.

Only 16.9% of the U.S. population — about 56.1 million people — have received the updated bivalent booster dose, the latest version of the booster shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Contrast that with the 69.5%, more than 230 million Americans, who got their initial COVID vaccine at some point. About 81.4% received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The CDC approved the first version of the booster dose for all adults in November, 2021. Ten months later in September, the updated bivalent booster targeting the Omicron variant became available.

By mid-October, a month and a half into the updated booster rollout, only 15 million doses of the new shots had been administered to about one in 10 eligible people.

Americans weren’t as excited as the government hoped they would be.

Most of the vaccinated people who didn’t get the updated booster shot said they either didn’t know they were eligible, didn’t know boosters were available, or believed they still had strong protection against infection, according to a November CDC survey.

Shots of the updated booster dose peaked on Friday, October 14 when more than 800,000 people across the country went to get their booster dose, according to the CDC’s tracker.

After that, though, the number of people getting boosters dropped precipitously in early November and has continued to sink since then. The last week of April saw a slight bump, but this month the numbers dropped even lower. According to the CDC, fewer than 8,000 people got a booster dose on May 9th.

Keep in mind, the CDC’s data only includes first booster doses. The numbers for subsequent boosters are even more dismal.

Enthusiasm for multiple COVID boosters was weak from the start.

By August, 2022, about 58.8 million people 50 or older had gotten their original booster shot, but only 20 million had gotten their second booster dose, despite all of them being eligible. The people most likely to skip the second booster were blacks and Hispanics, people in rural areas, people aged 50 to 64, and people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Currently, the CDC says people ages six and up need only one updated booster, while people 65 and up can get a second booster. The agency recommends immunocompromised people get a booster dose every two months.

In other words, a healthy person does not need more than one booster, even by the CDC’s standards.

Nevertheless, a small but vocal group is eager to announce getting their third, fourth, or fifth booster shots on social media, even as serious COVID cases have fallen.

For the most part, however, Americans’ vaccine fatigue does not show signs of letting up, especially as we get further away from 2020.

The national public health emergency around COVID officially expired on Thursday, May 11, more than three years after it began under the Trump administration. This means the government will now treat COVID as any other respiratory illness.

Unless millions of Americans have a sudden change of heart about the booster shot, the anemic tally of those who have taken it is unlikely to change.

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