Republicans want to know whether the White House pressured the FDA to sanction COVID booster shots beginning this month for the majority of Americans.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and ranking member on the House Oversight and Reform Committee James Comer (R-KY) sent a letter to the FDA on Tuesday asking for a copy of its communications with the White House on boosters, citing concerns of “potential political interference.”
The Republicans wrote that President Joe Biden announced the availability of vaccine boosters for previous mRNA recipients “without evidence and data.”
“President Biden, instead of following the science, is attempting to distract from his numerous crises by playing politics and moving out ahead of the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) when it comes to the science on coronavirus vaccine booster shots,” the letter addressed to acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock read.
FDA officials resign over booster shots
“Top scientists and researchers were stunned by this decision—particularly because the CDC and the FDA had not yet conducted their independent review of the data,” they wrote.
Indeed, two senior FDA officials resigned on Monday after stating that they didn’t believe that booster shots were necessary for most Americans.
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” Marion Gruber and Phil Krause wrote in a paper published in The Lancet, a medical journal.
The FDA outside Gruber and Krause has decided to stand by the White House’s decision on boosters.
Widespread criticism of boosters
Criticism of Biden’s booster policy has included top health officials and the World Health Organization, which argued that giving Americans boosters now will deprive poorer nations of the chance to vaccinate more of their populations.
Many African countries, for instance, have vaccinated less than five percent of their populations.
But Biden and other leaders like the UK’s Boris Johnson want to keep ahead of the pandemic amid hospitals that are reaching capacity in some areas of the country. The UK plans to roll out booster shots for those over 50 starting next week.
Around 80 million U.S. adults and children age 12 and up have not yet been vaccinated, but some of those will now be subject to Biden’s new vaccine mandates, if they withstand scrutiny in the courts.