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Some health experts confused about administration's booster goal

Emily Kopp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in News & Features

Michael Osterholm, executive director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said the nation’s leaders are grappling with two different mindsets.

“One is the classic public health approach in an outbreak, where you have to take action based on incomplete information. Versus the time-tested process of FDA review for approvals and ACIP review for approvals, after we have extensive data available collected over the years,” said Osterholm. “A lot of people would like to revert back to the FDA, CDC, ACIP approach, which isn’t gonna happen.”

Long-haul symptoms

The Biden administration recently argued booster shots are important for preventing breakthrough cases from COVID-19 resulting in long-haul symptoms.

Several experts said there is not yet enough data to support the idea that boosters could help stave off long-haul symptoms that might occur in breakthrough cases.

“If the booster restores some degree of protection against infections, which may only be short term, it probably would reduce some of those risks, but not eliminate them. But we don’t know,” said Goodman.


But there is evidence to support the idea that long-haul symptoms can occur in many young people with COVID-19 who were never hospitalized, and may have even had asymptomatic cases, including from a recent study of about 97,000 electronic health records.

“If there was a way of preventing even mild COVID, it would help us with preventing more long COVID complications. I think we can say, based on our results, that there is some evidence that can point to the need for a booster shot,” said Hossein Estiri, a Harvard computational demographer and a coauthor of the study. “But there’s nothing [in the data] about whether that should be the priority in front of helping the rest of the world with getting COVID vaccines.”

The purpose of booster shots may be hazy because the way out of the pandemic, with millions of Americans unvaccinated, remains so cloudy.

“What is the total endgame? What is the endgame for everything?” said Luciana Borio, an In-Q-Tel venture capital firm executive and expert in emerging infectious diseases.

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