A nurse gives a COVID-19 booster shot to a patient at a vaccination site in Altamonte Springs, California last month.
Photo: Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
Two key U.S. vaccine advisory groups will meet this weekend and have one of the most controversial debates of this phase of the pandemic: whether to allow booster shots for everyone. The debate over timing and the role of boosters has intensified in recent weeks. The White House announced plans to give all Americans booster vaccines by Monday. Experts argued that officials had overruled the health authority review and ordered a large-scale rollout before schedule. The controversy has sparked two FDA officials to resign.
The debate centers on concerns about declining immunity. There is evidence that the vaccine’s ability to fight infections declines with time. However, it remains effective against serious diseases. One study found that the vaccine’s effectiveness fell from 91 percent down to 84 per cent after six months. However, its effectiveness against serious diseases remained constant at 97 per cent. Kathleen Neuzil from the University of Maryland Medical School intelligence, said that it is difficult to determine which changes in vaccine effectiveness were due to decreased immunity or the Delta variant.
On one side of the debate, experts argue that booster vaccinations should only be available to immunocompromised people; On the other hand, some argue that they are needed now for everyone to stay one step ahead of the virus. The White House proposed that everyone could receive an additional dose of COVID vaccine eight months after receiving their first vaccination.
The United States has approved Pfizer and Moderna green booster vaccines for people with immunocompromised – organ transplant recipients, some cancer patients, etc. – in order to boost immunity. Akiko Iwasaki, an Yale University immunologist, stated to Intelligencer, “I also believe that evidence would support booster vaccines for older adults.
Neuzil does not plan to conduct a large-scale booster program. “I think we have to resign. We need to check the data carefully, ”She stated. “I believe that repeated doses of this vaccine will be possible in the future. But, it is not clear when the best time to get another shot or if the vaccine is the best. Or if we would be better off using another strain.
A group of scientists including the FDA’s vaccine regulators have concluded that booster shots to increase immunity are not necessary for the general population. The Lancet published Monday’s peer-reviewed paper by scientists stating that the current evidence does not support the need for replenishment of the population. This is because the effectiveness against serious diseases continues to be high. They said that it was important to “careful and open scrutiny” of the evolving data in order to ensure that funding decisions are informed more by science than policy.
There’s also the question of vaccination fairness. The World Health Organization has asked countries such as the USA not to provide booster vaccines for COVID-19 until the end. They have expanded their previous requests to share vaccines among poorer countries. Many of these people have not received vaccinations. Neuzil said, “I believe we need to think global vaccine supply and have global vaccine strategy to ensure everyone is at minimum protected against serious diseases.” Eric Topol of Scripps has claimed that more than 70 million US vaccines are in use and are not exportable. He also suggested that these doses could be used to boost the immune system for Americans older than 60.
Scientists are concerned that mass adoption may be premature. However, some officials from the government support the provision booster vaccines for Americans who are healthy. Officials worry that protection could decrease, even though the risk of serious illness from a breakthrough instance is low. “While the new data confirms that vaccination protects against the worst effects from COVID remains high,” said General Vivek Muthy, an American surgeon. This was in a press conference held at the White House last month. “This could lead to decreased protection against serious illness and hospitalization, as well as death.”
Reuters reports the Food and Drug Administration requested data from Israel. Israel is currently giving booster injections for anyone over 12 years old. According to the country’s health officials, the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines last five months. Therefore, the extra dose offers an additional layer of protection. According to Wall Street Journal, over 2 million of Israel’s 9.3 million citizens have received the third dose. 92 percent of them have received severe infection vaccines. No data are available on those under 60. The Lancet paper’s scientists state, however that a “very short-term protective effect” would not necessarily be a long-term benefit.
Some Americans are also taking matters into their own hands, even though they aren’t eligible for a booster. An internal briefing by the CDC released in early January estimated that 1.1 Million Americans have already had an unauthorized booster vaccine. The number of people looking for underground booster vaccines is certain to increase despite all the confusion.
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