A panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is meeting Wednesday to debate whether a booster shot program is necessary in the United States. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting is scheduled to go until Thursday.
The Biden administration is hoping to roll out a booster shot program to the general public. However, last week, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel overwhelming rejected the idea. They did endorse giving booster shots to senior citizens and those at high risk for the virus.
The FDA itself still has to decide whether it will authorize Pfizer boosters.
Today’s CDC advisory panel is expected to tackle similar questions, including who is considered at high enough risk for a booster dose. The panel is also expected to decide on how many months after the second shot the booster should be given. Scientists have talked about a six or eight month range.
Many experts are torn about the need for boosters because they see the COVID-19 vaccines working just as expected. The CDC says the priority still is to vaccinate the unvaccinated, who account for the vast majority of COVID-19 cases. Those cases are soaring to levels not seen since last winter. About 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, nearly 55 percent of the total population, according to CDC numbers.
“I want to highlight that in September of 2021 in the United States. Deaths from COVID-19 are largely vaccine-preventable with the primary series of any of the three vaccines available,” Dr. Matthew Daley, said at Wednesday’s panel meeting on booster shots.
The panel may also discuss how effective booster shots could be at preventing breakthrough cases. This could help tamp down virus transmission, protect young children who aren’t yet eligible for vaccine and ease the burden on overwhelmed health care systems.
If the FDA authorizes booster shots, the CDC then must use the panel’s advice in order to recommend who should get the extra shots.
The government will decide at a later date whether to allow extra doses of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.