Health officials tell White House to hold on COVID vaccine booster shots, for now

Top health officials told the White House on Thursday to pause plans for a widespread campaign to give COVID-19 booster shots to Americans starting in September, saying they need more time to study whether the plan is well-advised. 

The New York Times reported that Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey D. Zients they need more time for data analysis before a definitive recommendation can be made.

The White House said on Friday that they would go along with the delay because it was part of “following the science.”

Following the science

“We always said we would follow the science, and this is all part of the process that is now underway,” a White House spokesperson said on Friday, according to the Times.

“When that approval and recommendations are made,” White House spokesman Chris Meagher said, “we will be ready to implement the plan our nation’s top doctors developed so that we are staying ahead of the virus.”

The Biden administration had announced in August that vaccinated Americans should get a booster shot eight months after their second shot, and had planned to make the boosters available starting Sept. 20.

“The plan is for every adult to get a booster shot eight months after you got your second shot,” President Joe Biden said on Aug. 18. “It will make you safer, and for longer. And it will help us end the pandemic faster.”

Pfizer effectiveness waning?

Pfizer efficacy may be waning, according to a new U.S. study that has not been peer-reviewed. That study showed only a 42% effectiveness rate against infection from the delta variant, which is much lower than the 90% effectiveness shown in clinical trials.

In comparison, Moderna’s effectiveness rate was about twice that of Pfizer in the study. Most studies in other countries had higher effectiveness rates against infection for the Pfizer vaccine, however.

All three of the vaccines approved for use in the U.S. have shown high rates of effectiveness against hospitalization and death even with the delta variant.

Johnson & Johnson, a single-dose vaccine, seems to be more effective against the delta variant than it was against the original strain of the virus, which may mean that a booster shot is not needed at this time.

Most health officials still have not addressed the natural immunity of people who have had confirmed COVID-19 infections, which may make any vaccine unnecessary for at least a period of time, if they truly do wish to follow the prevailing science.

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