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Some Healthy Americans Seek Coronavirus Booster Shots Before Approval


As a result, Americans across the political spectrum are relying on pieces of information, like an announcement by Israel’s Ministry of Health in July that the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against symptomatic infection — though not against serious illness — waned over time. Others have trusted their intuition, whether that means taking dangerous livestock medications to “cure” the virus or seeking a booster before it is officially recommended.

“This is a result of poor risk communication and lack of political and scientific transparency over the last 18 months,” said Rachael Piltch-Loeb, a researcher and fellow in public health emergency preparedness and response at the Harvard School of Public Health. “It is also a reflection of people feeling a total lack of control of what is happening in society at this point. One of the things that can do to protect themselves is to take science into their own hands.”

For vaccinated people living in areas where many have shunned shots and masks, proactively grabbing a booster feels like buying insurance on a rental car: They might not need it, but it makes them feel more secure.

Many have found willing partners in pharmacies and health care providers.

Bruni Baeza, 83, walked into a CVS in Miami, flashed the white vaccine card that showed seven months had passed since her last shot and was immediately given a booster, she said in an email from her birthday cruise — the impetus, she said, to get the third shot.

Pharmacies deny that they are knowingly letting people flout the guidelines. “Patients are asked to attest that all information provided, including health status, is truthful and accurate while scheduling a vaccination appointment on CVS.com and when they receive their vaccination,” said Ethan Slavin, a spokesman for the company. “Mr. Slavin said that “we can’t speak to anecdotal reports” that CVS is giving boosters to customers like Ms. Baeza, who shared a record of her third dose with a reporter.

Public health experts generally take a dim view of booster self-selection. Like vaccine refusal, they say, it does not take into consideration the broader fight against the pandemic, which they believe should be focused on vaccinating the 25 percent of Americans who are eligible but unvaccinated, or on vaccinating people in poor nations.

“This flies in the face of what is required in a pandemic,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “The challenge is, particularly in a pandemic, individual choice is important but the entire strategy has to do with our collective choices and responsibility.”



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