An all-star panel of scientists said that most people won’t be needing COVID booster shots. The simple reason is that vaccines already work to provide protection. Instead of promoting COVID booster shots, governments should focus on convincing unvaccinated citizens to give COVID vaccines a shot.
Wait For More Data On Booster Shots
The panel of scientists included two prominent US Food and Drug Administration experts. They suggested that governments should wait for more data. Studies can eventually show which boosters (and at what doses) can be most effective.
Publishing their findings in The Lancet, the panel based their assessment using real-world studies and clinical trial data. COVID vaccines reported an average of 95% effectiveness against severe disease.
This covers more infectious variants such as delta. It is also more than 80% effective at preventing any infection. Even in countries with high vaccination rates, the unvaccinated are the ones driving the transmission. In addition, this means that unvaccinated people have the highest risk of becoming severely ill.
“None of the studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease” the panel concluded. They also said that when health officials introduced boosters too soon or too broadly, people could develop additional side effects.
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Should Countries Allocate Stocks As COVID Booster Shots?
Many countries with enough COVID-19 vaccine supplies are debating on whether to allocate some of their stock for COVID booster shots. These boosters can prop up immunity especially against new variants that recently cropped up.
For example, the US plans to roll out COVID booster shots beginning September 20. However, the plan needs a go-ahead from both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On the topic of COVID boosters, scientists remain divided on the topic. Azra Ghani is a chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London. He is not part of the panel review but gave his two cents.
There is no one size fits all approach for the virus. In addition, even a small reduction in efficacy against the spread of Covid can strain a healthcare system.
Blow to Biden’s Bid for COVID Booster Shots
After the publication of the panel’s report, shares of biotech and pharma companies involved with the vaccines fell. BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer to produce an FDA-approved vaccine, fell by 7.7%.
Pfizer also fell by 2.5%. Moderna, another vaccine maker, slipped by 7.7% as well. AstraZeneca also lost 1.2% in value yesterday.
The report also represents a serious blow to President Joe Biden’s bid to implement a COVID booster program. He decided to go ahead after conferring with top White House health experts.
This includes CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock.
The advisers said at the time that data supported the need for boosters. However, they insisted that regulators will need to sign off on the plan. Many outside the administration questioned the need for boosters, especially since vaccines are in short supply globally.
In fact, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on boosters until more people outside of rich countries can get initial vaccine doses. “Even if boosting were eventually shown to decrease the medium-term risk of serious disease, current vaccine supplies could save more lives if used in previously unvaccinated populations,” the authors wrote.
COVID Booster Panel
In Europe, the UK will soon issue a government advisory panel decision on whether to issue a third vaccine booster dose. The country, along with many EU nations, is already providing COVID booster shots to patients with severely compromised immune systems. Similarly, the European Medicines Agency is also reviewing booster data from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
Among the star-studded panel behind The Lancet’s article are heavy hitters from the vaccine world. This includes Marion Gruber, head of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review.
Her deputy, Philip Krause is also a panel member. The WHO’s Soumya Swaminathan, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo, and Mike Ryan also worked on the review.
Watch the Bloomberg Markets and Finance video reporting that the WHO warns against booster shots, as they raise the risk of more variants:
Do you agree that COVID booster shots are unnecessary or premature at this point? Do you also agree that government efforts should focus on getting more people vaccinated the first time?
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