We’re probably going to look back on the first week to ten days of December as another episode of failed communications. I would argue that, by the end of the first week of December, it was pretty clear that two doses of mRNA vaccine, while pretty good at keeping people out of the hospital, did very little to prevent infection (estimates of protection from two doses are currently around 33%).
Yet instead of telling people who had two doses that they were essentially unprotected against infection (or at least much closer to that end of the spectrum), there were a lot of pieces arguing that traveling to see relatives would be fine. As some asshole with a blog noted last week, “Some People Who Believe They Were Being Cautious Weren’t as Cautious as They Believed They Were Being.” Would you eat in a restaurant, even in a city like New York where two doses are mandatory forr entrance, if you knew that most of the people in that restaurant were mostly unprotected? Or travel across country with connecting flights, hotel stays, and exposure to people in settings you can’t predict or control? I’m guessing some would have been far more cautious.
The concern was, as best as I can tell, people who still aren’t vaccinated will use these concerns as an excuse to continue to remain unvaccinated. But if early data from D.C., one of the hotspots of Omicron*, are any indication, we were beginning to see more ‘fully vaccinated’ (i.e., mostly two doses, but some unknown number of people with three doses) people get infected. In other words, it looks like we’re moving back to a pandemic of the vaccinated (with two doses). We should have pressed hard–not wheedled, but made it clear in sharp terms–for third doses by making it clear what the stakes were.
So here we are. Hopefully, as awareness of the need for three doses sinks in, people will change their behavior and we’ll see a drop in prevalence.
*D.C. has a high uptake of two doses, but relatively few with three doses. Moreover, many have been vaccinated for four to six months (or longer), meaning that their protection was waning anyway. Yet it was pretty clear talking to people, especially younger people, that they were completely unaware of this.