I try not to get mad online. But a few weeks ago this tweet activated something strangely primal in me.
I wasn’t upset at Dr. Topol, whose explanatory work during the pandemic has been extremely valuable. What set me off was the tone: the sense of a sudden, Omicron-induced shift in messaging around boosters. If you are not boosted, you are not fully vaccinated. I realize this statement was and is accurate. I realize that the Omicron variant’s sudden arrival prompted a new push for people to get a third shot and that the messaging needed to be more urgent. I wasn’t frustrated because I disagreed with the tweet or with the numerous people in my feeds and on TV imploring us to get boosted. I was frustrated because I very much wanted to get boosted and could not, for the life of me, secure a timely appointment for myself and my family.
Aside: I worry about sounding gross and privileged here. The fact that there’s a 20-day waiting period to get an appointment for a third dose of a lifesaving vaccine is hardly a problem, in a global sense. The monumental logistical and moral failure of vaccine inequity is the real and glaring problem. The fact that the countries and regions with the highest incomes are “getting vaccinated more than 10 times faster than those with the lowest” is not surprising, but it is upsetting. So are reports that experts believe it would only cost $50 billion to vaccinate the world and yet, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, low-income countries have an average of only 7.6 vaccine doses administered per 100 people (in high-income countries the figure is 147.1 doses per 100 people).
This grim reality makes me feel guilty even talking about third doses (and was a reason that the booster conversation in the U.S. was contentious in the summer and early fall). But I think it is still worth discussing in the context of the American pandemic response.