The possibility of covid-19 booster shots for all is looking less and less likely to happen in the U.S., at least for the time being. Scientists in the U.S. and elsewhere have argued that the general public does not need boosters currently, given the continued protection that vaccines appear to provide against illness, hospitalization, and death. Meanwhile, there continue to be reported tensions within the Biden administration about the booster plan set to be enacted later this month, which could be scaled down to only cover people over 65 and some health care workers.
In mid-August, the White House announced its intention to sanction booster shots for all Americans who took a two-dose mRNA vaccine. The plan was to begin the week of September 20, and the booster would be recommended for everyone eight months after their second shot. Those who took the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were told a similar recommendation would likely happen for them as well, once more data emerged
The heads of the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the idea, but, as the Biden announcement noted, any booster plan would need formal permission from the FDA and CDC. The plan and the September timeline, however, were not warmly welcomed by some of the staff at these agencies.
Two weeks later, two of the FDA's top officials involved in vaccine approval—Marion Gruber and Phil Krause—abruptly announced their retirement by early October. Soon after, Endpoints News reported that these departures were due to long- published a review article in the Lancet, concluding that boosters aren't necessary for the general population right now. Though these vaccines are generally safe, pushing people to get an unneeded third dose could further increase the risk of rare adverse events like myocarditis (heart inflammation)
The FDA told the New York Times that the article only represents the view of the authors, not the agency, and that its deliberations on booster doses are still ongoing. Yesterday, Politico also reported on infighting between the White House, FDA,
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The booster debate isn't helped by the fact that there's plenty of conflicting evidence floating around. Some data from Israel, for instance, has suggested that vaccine effectiveness against infection has begun to substantially drop off, both due to the emergence of the Delta variant and a large decline in antibody levels over time. Research from other countries has reaffirmed a drop in protection against infection, but at least some data hasn't found a large drop off in
Beyond that, the review authors argue that a focus on boosters will sap resources away from the more impactful strategy of getting people their first doses. Despite supply pledges from the U.S. and other countries, as well as ongoing negotiations over vaccine pat next year before a large majority of the global population is vaccinated, particularly people pleaded with wealthy
Booster shots are likely to be needed for all at some point, many experts have said. But there does seem to be stronger evidence that certain vulnerable suggested that older people are experiencing more waning immunity against expanded eligibility to the general population. Officials and experts affiliated with the CDC have recently signaled that they may agree to approve a booster dose
At this point, it's unclear
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