WebMD News Brief

U.S. Scientists Unconvinced COVID Booster Shots Needed Now

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July 13, 2021 – U.S. officials were unmoved by vaccine maker Pfizer’s pitch that Americans will soon need COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.

Representatives from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech met privately with top U.S. scientists on Monday to explain why they should be authorized to offer booster shots for their COVID-19 vaccine.

The government hasn’t changed its official position -- at least for now.

"At this time, fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot," the Department of Health and Human Sciences said in a statement after the meeting, according to The New York Times.

That statement echoed what the FDA, CDC, and National Institutes of Health said in a joint statement last week. That July 8 statement ended with, “We are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”

Booster shots are still up for discussion. Israel has started giving Pfizer booster shots to people with compromised immune systems. Pfizer said it would publish “definitive data” soon in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Both Pfizer and the U.S. government share a sense of urgency in staying ahead of the virus that causes COVID-19, and we also agree that the scientific data will dictate next steps in the rigorous regulatory process that we always follow," the company said in a statement released Tuesday.

“There wasn’t anything resembling a decision,” Anthony Fauci, MD, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on Monday, according to the Times. “This is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle, and it’s one part of the data, so there isn’t a question of a convincing case one way or the other.”

Fauci has not ruled out booster shots and in May said he expects them to be needed 12 months or so after the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

But the emphasis now, government health officials have said, should be placed on getting the vaccine into more unvaccinated people. The CDC says only 55.5% of the total U.S. population is partially vaccinated and 48% is fully vaccinated.

Pfizer officials told The Associated Press last week that early data from a booster study showed that antibody levels jumped by 5 to 10 times after a third dose, as compared with the second dose months before, which could provide evidence that boosters will be needed within 12 months.

The New York Times, citing several unnamed U.S. officials, said any decision about booster shots will be based on real-world information gathered by the CDC about breakthrough infections. Those occur after a person is fully vaccinated.

The Times said U.S. health officials will also study the spread of variants, such as the Delta strain, and data collected in Israel on how immunity wanes after a person is fully vaccinated.

WebMD Health News Brief

Sources

The New York Times: “U.S. Officials Press Pfizer for More Evidence of Need for Booster Shot.”

ABC News: “Gov't officials remain unconvinced Americans need COVID vaccine booster shot just yet.”

Pfizer: “Pfizer and BioNTech Provide Update on Booster Program in Light of the Delta-Variant.”

 

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