COVID-19 booster discussions have led to a 'communications crisis' and 'nonstop' phone calls

·1 min read
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. RAJESH JANTILAL/AFP via Getty Images

The back-and-forth on COVID-19 booster shots among the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and their advisory panels amounts to a "communications crisis," Robert Murphy, the executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told The Washington Post.

Many Americans seem like they aren't sure if they're eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (the only one of the three available shots that's received formal discussions on boosters) because of hard-to-follow guidance from public health officials — first, the CDC advisory panel narrowed the FDA panel's initial recommendation, and then CDC Director Rochelle Walensky overruled that, broadening it again.

The situation, though, has led to a deluge of phone calls to healthcare providers at the local level. For instance, a customer service representative for Primary Health clinics in southwestern Idaho told the Post "the calls seem pretty nonstop." David Peterman, Primary Health's chief executive, said in light of the booster confusion "we went from 40,000 phone calls daily to 80,000," prompting him to ask staffers to take extra shifts.

Jay A. Winsten, the founding director of the Center for Health Communications at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, thinks the solution should come from the top. While the FDA and CDC have a lot of experts in the health and science fields, "what's missing from the equation are communication experts," Winsten said, adding that "they need a seat at the table." Read more at The Washington Post.

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