Americans tend to stick with their camp divisions: Democrats versus Republicans; pro-life and pro-choice; gun rights versus gun controls. As we have seen over the past year in the United States, many are now pro- or anti-coronavirus vaccinations. Your position regarding COVID-19 vaccination has evolved into more than a question of medical fact. It’s morphed into a form of cultural identifier, a sign of your membership in one tribe or another.
More than ever, that’s becoming clear as booster shots are rolled out around the nation, with about 70 million Americans now eligible for an additional dose and tens of millions more set to join them as the eligibility age inevitably falls. The extra dose comes as very good news to a lot of the population—people who are mindful of the way vaccine-induced antibody levels fall over time and anxious to bump them back up. But that doesn’t remotely include everybody, with resistance to even initial vaccinations keeping the country far from the much hoped-for herd immunity.
As the government moves beyond just first doses, it encourages Americans who are not taking their prescribed dose to increase their intake of extra medication. There are many people responding. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that booster rates have exceeded first-shot rates in the United States. Just over 400,000 people received boosters in the week ended October 24 compared with just under 200,000 who got their first shot.
Since late August when over 400,000 people were receiving first doses, and boosters for immunocompromised patients were being distributed, those numbers have moved in a Newtonian dance. When the CDC recommended Pfizer BioNTech boosters in September for high-risk individuals, those lines were crossed. The upward trend in boosters and downwards trend for the first shot has continued. Boosters got another bump on October 21, when the CDC approved additional doses of the Moderna and J&J vaccines.
Those recommendations, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement last week, “are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19.” When it comes to the boosters, the government’s pro-vaccine message is apparently being heard. First doses are not the same.
The following story was adapt from The Coronavirus Brief TIME’s daily COVID-19 newsletter. Get signed up.