Top FDA And WHO Scientists Oppose COVID Booster Shots

Top FDA And WHO Scientists Oppose COVID Booster Shots

On Monday, top scientists from around the world, including experts from the FDA and the World Health Organization, argued against the need for widespread coronavirus vaccine booster shots.

The scientists argued in a review published in the top medical journal The Lancet that booster shots are unnecessary in the general population because vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. They also emphasized the critical need to administer doses to unvaccinated people all over the world in order to save lives and prevent the emergence of more dangerous variants.

The review comes as the United States approaches the Biden administration’s proposed start date for a booster rollout, which is eight months after an individual’s second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. The report also comes just a week after the White House announced a massive push to mandate vaccination for nearly two-thirds of the US workforce, as pockets of unvaccinated people continue to drive high numbers of hospitalizations and deaths across the country.

Marion Gruber, the director of the FDA’s vaccines office, and Philip Krause, her deputy at the agency, are among the 18 coauthors of the Lancet review. Both announced their resignations in the fall, reportedly in part due to their opposition to the Biden administration’s booster plan. The review was also coauthored by several World Health Organization experts, who have called for a global booster shot moratorium in order to maximize vaccinations worldwide — particularly in developing countries where vaccination rates remain extremely low.

The Lancet paper examines the current evidence on the efficacy of existing vaccines. While the vaccines all provide less protection against infection with the Delta variant than the previously dominant Alpha variant, they still provide very good protection against severe disease. While the ability to prevent infection or even symptomatic illness may deteriorate over time, protection against severe disease appears to be stable so far.

Three CDC reports released last week confirmed these findings across most age groups, with people 75 and older declining more significantly. One of the studies looked at nearly 570,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States from April to July and found that unvaccinated people were nearly 5 times more likely to get infected and more than 10 times more likely to be hospitalized or die than people who received a vaccine.

“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” the Lancet paper’s authors wrote.

Data from Israel, which has already begun a booster-shot rollout, showed an increase in protection against infection and severe disease after a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, which was initially given in two doses. However, the authors of the Lancet note that the data was only collected for a week after the booster dose was given, and it’s unclear how long that protection will last.

The Lancet authors argued that boosters may be required in the future if immunity waned, but that more research was needed to determine when this would be necessary. For the time being, they argue, there is a greater need to administer existing doses to the unvaccinated. They also speculated that booster doses targeted specifically at the coronavirus’s main circulating variants might be more potent and last longer.

“Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained from boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated,” the authors wrote. “If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants.”

Last month, Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, slammed booster shot rollouts. “We’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket,” Ryan explained. “That’s the reality.”

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Top FDA And WHO Scientists Oppose COVID Booster Shots