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COVID-19 booster debate rages days before target rollout date

Emily Kopp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — The debate over COVID-19 booster shots for all Americans remains intense with less than a week to go before the target rollout date desired by the White House and days before government advisers plan to vote on the issue.

Experts are eagerly parsing the data on booster shots after internal feuding at the Food and Drug Administration spilled into the public this week, with two top vaccine regulators arguing in a review of global data in The Lancet that there is not enough evidence to recommend them.

The drama comes days before a meeting Friday at which the agency’s vaccine advisers, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, plan to decide whether to recommend that the FDA approve boosters for people who received the Pfizer vaccine.

“The timing [of the study] couldn’t be any more exquisite in terms of making a statement,” said Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco who added that the review provides an unequivocal case that boosters are premature. “I doubt that it will go unnoticed.”

Meanwhile, preliminary data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet indicated a decline in effectiveness when it comes to severe disease and hospitalization, leading to anonymous accusations by White House officials in the press that the agency is withholding data.

Experts are eager to see results of the FDA’s independent analysis of data submitted by Pfizer in support of third shots. That analysis is expected to be released Wednesday, before the FDA’s vaccine advisers convene.

 

A separate study analyzing data on Israel’s booster rollout is also expected to be published this week in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

A U.S. booster policy would consume millions of vaccines while all but the wealthiest countries do not have enough first shots. It would violate the World Health Organization’s call for a moratorium on extra doses for vaccinated people.

Logistical challenges

A booster campaign also would require complex planning and resources from public health departments.

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