Federal health officials two weeks ago announced a target date of Sept. 20 to try and roll out booster shots for the general public, although a recent study from several top scientists at the World Health Organization and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that the general population doesn’t need a booster dose.
“Real-world data from Israel and the United States suggest that rates of breakthrough infections are rising faster in individuals who were vaccinated earlier in the vaccination campaigns compared to those who have been vaccinated more recently,” Pfizer said during its presentation this week, which was posted on the FDA website.
And the evidence from the studies indicates that the “observed decrease of vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections is primarily due to waning of vaccine immune responses over time rather than a result of the Delta variant escaping vaccine protection,” said Pfizer.
Based on its data, Pfizer said that booster doses should be given to all people aged 16 and older six months after they received their second dose of the mRNA vaccine.
The pharmaceutical giant, which partnered with BioNTech for its vaccine, cited a study from healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente that suggested protection against COVID-19 infection dropped from 88 percent in the first month of getting the second dose to 47 percent after five months.
The company is attempting to make an argument ahead of a crucial FDA meeting scheduled for Friday, where a panel is slated to debate and vote on whether to recommend booster shots, or a third dose.
But in a study published by The Lancet on Monday, two senior FDA vaccine reviewers who are expected to leave the agency soon and more than a dozen top researchers argued that booster shots aren’t needed for the general population. They argued that potential side-effects from the extra doses could outweigh the benefits, arguing that such a phenomenon would actually increase vaccine hesitance.
“Current evidence does not … appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” the study published in the Lancet said. “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.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this month issued a sharply worded statement calling on wealthier nations including the United States to place a moratorium on booster shots until the end of this year. Because companies are ramping up production of the extra vaccine doses, it deprives poorer nations of initial vaccines, he argued at a news conference.
“I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” he told a news conference on Sept. 8. “Because manufacturers have prioritized or been legally obliged to fulfill bilateral deals with rich countries willing to pay top dollar, low-income countries have been deprived of the tools to protect their people.”
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