As America struggles to ride out the third wave of the deadly COVID-19 disease, scientists and healthcare workers have been working with the CDC to release booster shots. These third doses, intended to be administered 8 months after one’s second dose, are to be provided in hopes of fortifying the effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as the American public begins to face newer variants of SARS-CoV-2. The media continues to highlight the growing hesitancy and disbelief in the function of vaccines, but recent polls seem to present a more optimistic result, with 58% of American adults expressing intent to receive their booster vaccinations later this year.
When faced with the rapid multiplication of viral bacteria, which causes infection, the human body recognizes the genetic material as foreign and utilizes B-lymphocytes and T-lymphocytes(defensive white blood cells) to produce combative antibodies. When the virus subdues, a few T-lymphocytes are saved as “memory cells”, which are used to restart the production of B-lymphocyte antibodies in the case that the viral antigen ever reenters. Vaccines attempt to take advantage of this phenomenon by manually introducing harmless viral material into one’s body. This kickstarts the same process of memorization and antibody production that would occur if the real virus were to enter the body. In regard to the COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both considered “mRNA vaccines”. They both use spike protein, found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, to introduce the mRNA instructions into the recipient’s system. The current booster shot is essentially the same formula as the first two doses, but is fine-tuned to focus on introducing the mRNA of the new variants of SARS-CoV-2, as well as strengthening the immune system of the receiver.
In an August 2021 poll by Forbes, conducted with a pool of vaccinated and unvaccinated respondents, a slight majority report their inclination to have the booster shot administered. When posing a similar question to a pool of only vaccinated adults, about 77% say that they’re willing to receive the booster shot once it is CDC recommended. When combining that value with the 12% of pollers who are not sure as to whether or not they’ll opt for a third dose, we see only 5% of vaccinated adults who are not looking to get the shot, all of whom are part of a 42% minority of previously vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans who are unwilling to take the booster.
The media plays a crucial role in influencing this decision making process for millions of Americans and has recently been critiqued for solely showcasing rare breakthrough cases. They take away from the opportunity to explain the contents and function of the booster shots, and as a result fail to give viewers the chance to better acquaint themselves with the research and science behind getting vaccinated. The White House even went as far to release a statement expressing disappointment over all major media outlets for not doing enough on their part to educate and encourage the public to get vaccinated.
Media, government, peers, and science all affect one’s decision to get vaccinated, and as the deadliest pandemic of the century ramps up and slows down at unpredictable moments, it is imperative to consider vaccinations a matter of public health and make decisions accordingly.
Through Teen Lenses: “Would you be willing to receive a COVID-19 booster shot as soon as they are available? If not, what makes you hesitant about taking the vaccine and what would you like to see happen in order to feel more comfortable with having the third dose administered?”
“I would probably hesitate before getting a booster shot. I completely trust the vaccine itself. My concern is about the limited supply of vaccines and the vast populations that can not afford enough vaccines. I feel like the opportunity cost of a booster shot is too great to ignore.” Julia Victor, 15, Sophomore at W.T. Woodson High School, Virginia
“I wouldn’t take it as soon as they’re available – I’d like to see more trials on people, and observe their reaction. This would mainly be due to the fact that the current research on booster shots doesn’t seem very expansive, given that COVID-19 is a relatively new viral disease. I’d also make sure to further research the components of boosters shots to better understand the ways in which it would work to develop and restore antibodies, as well as why the current vaccines that have been administered seem to produce antibodies that only provide protection for a few months time.” Samiksha Prabhu, 15, Sophomore at Jefferson Sci/Tech High School, Virginia
“I would be willing to receive the COVID-19 booster shot when it’s available because by then [when the vaccine becomes available for teens] I believe it’ll be backed by a significant amount of research. I also think that this could get us closer to moving on from the pandemic as a society.” Siri Duddella, 15, Sophomore at Jefferson Sci/Tech High School, Virginia