The new Omicron variant has President Biden and the CDC calling for vaccine boosters for everyone, even teens. What is the scientific basis for this?
Dr. Marty Makary, Johns Hopkins Medical School, questions the wisdom of this advice in an article just published in The Wall Street Journal. According to a large Israeli population study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the risk of Covid death in people under 30 with two vaccine shots was zero.
Since this study clearly was undertaken before the Omicron variant was widely spread, this reflects the impact of the more dangerous Delta or Alpha variants. The Omicron variant is clearly less dangerous as only one death has been reported to date in the U.K. and one recently in Texas. Yet the Omicron variant is now believed to be present in about 74% of new Covid infection cases. All this makes the danger of Covid-19 death in teenagers quite low, perhaps zero, especially if they have been vaccinated twice.
Why not just give them boosters anyway? Makary tells us there are infrequent, but real risks. In a study of 438,511 males 16 to 24, 56 developed myocarditis after their second Pfizer dose. That’s one in every 7,830 cases, or seven times the usual rate. While most cases were mild, in the broader group of 136 people including older and female patients, who developed myocarditis after the vaccine, seven had a “complicated course” and one 22-year-old died. The incidence of this complication is even higher with the Moderna vaccine, which is why some European countries have restricted it for people under 30.
But in the U.S., the FDA and the CDC are indiscriminately pushing for boosters for all young people. Some colleges are imposing booster mandates for all their students, despite the good health in most college students. Who made these recommendations?
Makary tells us the last vote by FDA scientific advisers, held in September, rejected the proposal 16 – 2. FDA leaders revisited the proposal in November and simply bypassed the experts they usually rely upon. The same is true of the CDC; their advisors also rejected boosters for people who were not at high risk. Two FDA top scientists, including the head of the agency’s vaccine efforts, resigned around the time of the September vote over White House pressure to authorize boosters for all. They wrote in detail about their concerns. (All this took place before the less dangerous Omicron variant was even the dominant virus.)
Now a study by Oxford researchers, published last week in Nature Medicine, has validated the concerns of these advisors. It found young people suffered myocarditis, pericarditis and arrhythmias more frequently from vaccines than from Covid itself. And the long-term cardiac effects of boosters in young people are unknown.
All of this seems to be coming in response to the Omicron variant. Although this variant is clearly more infectious, with doubling times now estimated at two to three days, the preliminary data thus far has shown it to be a mild, less dangerous variant. A University of Hong Kong study found that Omicron is less than one-tenth as infective in lung cells compared with the Delta variant. That explains why Omicron patients report far fewer cough and fever symptoms. Instead, they report common cold-symptoms, similar to the four known seasonal coronaviruses that have circulated for decades and account for the “common cold.”
Case counts are already plunging in South Africa, the epicenter of this new variant, and not one death has been reported there. South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla reports that only 1.7% of these Covid patients were hospitalized when this became the dominant variant as compared to 19% with the Delta variant.
With such a mild disease becoming the dominant variant, it would seem booster mandates, especially for young people, make little sense. They certainly would not be “following the science.”