Hot Topics in Infection Prevention: Booster Shots, New COVID-19 Surge, Ebola Erupts

While the US significantly struggles against this fourth COVID-19 wave, it’s critical we communicate that the vaccines are just 1 strategy—not the only strategy.

Actions Taken to Beat Back Latest COVID-19 Surge

COVID-19 cases in the United States are on the rise and back to pre-vaccination levels, which means we’re still struggling to learn lessons from the past. Forty-six states across the US have cases on the rise and the 7-day average is over 130,000 daily cases. As Stephanie Soucheray of CIDRAP noted, “For the first time since February, the United States reported more than 900,000 COVID-19 cases last week—with the country represented 20% of global cases—a sign the pandemic surge caused by the delta (B1617.2) variant has stalled the progress made by an aggressive vaccine rollout that dampened cases this spring and summer.”

Beyond the US, the world is struggling with COVID-19. Japan has extended their state of emergency. Even our own National Parks Service is requiring all visitors and employees to wear a mask indoors, in shuttles, and at crowded outdoor spaces.

This all comes as the US announced plans for a booster program, which would begin on September 20. Citing concerns for vaccine efficacy, waning protection, and the delta variant, the White House announced this strategy to improve immunity during this significant surge. “We are not recommending that you go out and get a booster today,” said Vivek Murthy, MD, the US Surgeon General, according to CIDRAP, which is a publication out of the University of Minnesota.

Murphy stressed that the booster shots effort shouldn’t detract from 2 other important goals: the global distribution of vaccines and encouraging vaccine hesitant Americans to get the vaccine. “I do not think we have to choose between vaccinating Americans and the world, but we have to act based on the data we have,” Murthy said.”

This decision is somewhat controversial, however, as many researchers have cited limited evidence to support this policy, but also that it still has to go through review/approval process of the Food and Drug Administration. Moreover, the notion of boosters when the rest of the world is struggling to merely gain access to first and second doses of vaccines is a huge concern for many, including the World Health Organization. While the US significantly struggles against this fourth COVID-19 wave, it’s critical we communicate that the vaccines are just 1 strategy—not the only strategy. They are done in complement of other non-pharmaceutical interventions, like masking.

Ebola and Marburg Once Again on the March

COVID-19 isn’t the only pathogen we need to be concerned about. We’re now seeing viral hemorrhagic fevers in West Africa. Last week, Guinea confirmed its first Marburg case. More recently though, the West African country of Cote d’Ivoire declared an Ebola virus disease outbreak on August 14. This is a startling turn of events as the last Ebola outbreak was declared over in June in Guinea. As a result, Cote d’Ivoire has announced and launched a vaccination program for health care workers, first responders, and high-risk populations. The World Health Organization said on August 17 that “the vaccine deployment from Guinea included 2000 doses from Merck that are being used under the ‘ring strategy’ where people who have come into contact with a confirmed Ebola patient are given the vaccine, as well as first responders and health workers. In addition, Guinea sent around 3000 vaccine doses manufactured by Johnson & Johnson which are to be used to boost the vaccination in areas not experiencing active transmission.”