Debate over need for COVID-19 boosters continues

Two FDA experts say vaccines may not prevent all infections, but they are working to prevent the majority of severe illness.
PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Two top scientists with the FDA say booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine are not needed for the general public at this time. This goes against plans announced by the Biden administration to offer booster starting September 20th.

The two officials, both set to retire this fall, published a paper in the The Lancet along with several other scientists across the globe saying the evidence doesn't support giving boosters at this time to the general public.

They say the vaccines may not prevent all infections, but they are working to prevent the majority of severe illness.

The lead author Dr. Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo says "Even if some gain can ultimately be obtained by boosting, it will not outweigh the benefits of providing initial protection to the unvaccinated. If vaccines are deployed where they would do the most good, they could hasten the end of the pandemic by inhibiting further evolution of variants."



John Wherry, Ph.D., an immunologist with Penn Medicine, says right now, most of the research shows the vaccines are holding up. They may not prevent all infections, but they are working to prevent severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

That said, he does believe an extra dose is needed for some people.

"If you are immunocompromised or have problems with with your immune system, perhaps people of advanced age should be given priority for boosters now, for the general population for healthy adults, boosting people who are already vaccinated is not going to end the pandemic," said Wherry.

The World Health Organization has urged higher income countries to delay giving boosters so those doses can be given to other countries still struggling to get supply.

But the White House says we can do both boosters and donating millions of doses overseas. They also point to research out of Israel, which shows the waning efficacy of the vaccine against the delta variant.

Israel started their booster campaign in August. Wherry says the data out of Isreal appears now to be an outlier. He is confident the FDA will weight all the evidence before making a decision.
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