The Booster Campaign Has Been A Stupid Thing

A look at the German efficacy data, which show temporary effectiveness against symptomatic infection and severe outcome, collapsing to the same baseline after a few months.

Even according to official statistics, booster doses provide only transient protection against symptomatic infection and severe outcomes, which rapidly fades towards the same baseline as the first two vaccine doses. In low-risk demographics, booster doses are stupid; they entail substantial risk and they don’t reduce SARS-2 transmission. In at-risk demographics, boosters are also stupid, unless they’re offered in the fall to the highest-risk groups. Otherwise, you end up exchanging an unknown number of adverse reactions for very little prospect of reducing hospitalisations or mortality, since the latter are concentrated in winter infections.

These points have become clearer and clearer, as the Robert Koch Institut has continued to track booster performance against Omicron through the spring. Consider the following charts from their 28 April report. In all of them, the y-axis is “vaccine effectiveness” (as a percentage), and the x-axis is is time.

First, efficacy against systematic infection in kids: The green line is 5–11 year-olds with two doses (heavens preserve us); the grey line is 12–17 year-olds with 2 doses; and the dotted grey line is 12–17 year-olds with a third dose:

Everything converges towards zero. You trade all that risk of injury in a demographic for which SARS-2 is less dangerous than influenza, and all you get in return is four months of protection against one of several pathogens that cause the sniffles.

When you look at hospitalisation numbers, it’s even worse. The data is noisy, because almost no children are hospitalised, regardless of vaccination status:

Now for adults, beginning again with symptomatic infection.

Here the blue line is 18–59 year-olds with two doses; the dotted blue line is 18–59 year-olds with three doses; the orange line is 60+ year-olds with two doses; and the dotted orange line is 60+ year-olds with three doses.

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