One month ago, President Joe Biden announced major plans to soon provide a booster shot for the coronavirus vaccine. However, after campaigning on the pledge to “follow science,” Biden was uncharacteristically ahead with this lofty declaration.
On Friday, some of the nation’s most respected medical advisors delivered a sharp rebuttal to the idea. In essence, they told the White House: Not so fast.
The key government advisory panel rejected Biden’s plan to give COVID-19 boost shots across the board. Instead, it recommended that the additional vaccine dose be given only to those 65 years or older who are at high risk for severe diseases.
Biden’s announcement on Aug. 18 that the federal government was ready to protect nearly all Americans had received a lot of attention. It was intended to calm fears of millions of Americans about a new, more dangerous strain of the coronavirus.
Biden stated that every adult should get a booster shot after eight months. He also noted that his administration would be ready for the program to start on Sept. 20.
Biden also added that third doses would need to be approved by health officials at the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, his public message ignored the nuance.
He said, “Just remember”: “A simple rule: Get a booster shot eight months after your second shot.”
Biden’s plan was immediately condemned by global health organizations, who encouraged the United States to stop administering boosters until less-developed countries could give first doses of their most vulnerable citizens.
Dr. Peter Lurie is president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. He stated, “When viewed from a global perspective this is a waste of a scarce global resource as a consequence which will cause people to die.” He said, “I feel completely comfortable stating this,” while acknowledging that presidents are subject to different domestic political considerations.
Medical professionals also criticized the Biden plan, citing a lack safety data on extra doses. They also raised concerns about mass boosters’ value, as opposed to those targeted at specific groups.
Lurie said that the FDA panel’s decision was a “rebuke,” of Biden’s attempts to bypass standard procedures. “That’s why we’re trying get past the Trump era.”
He said, “Following them was very beneficial for FDA when they’ve done this.” He compared the quick approval of vaccines to FDA’s brief flirtation during Trump’s administration with unproven COVID-19 treatment such as hydroxychloroquine for malaria. “When they stray from it, they get in trouble.”
The FDA will not rely on the non-binding recommendations of outside experts. The FDA will review the advice of the outside experts and make its decision within days. Next week, the CDC will weigh in.
After the meeting, Dr. Paul Offit, a consultant to the FDA, said that although the Biden administration had intended for boosters for the general public, it was not the case. This is: “We’re going test the water one step at a time .”’
Norman Baylor, former director at the FDA’s office for vaccine review, stated that the committee “parked all this stuff and did their jobs.” “I will be honest here: I feel that this meeting was too fast. It should have occurred later,” so the FDA could have more data to make a decision.
Allies of the White House defended the administration’s aggressive preparations for boosters. This has included regular messages from doctors about their necessity, and strengthening the federal stockpile.
They claim that the American people elected a president to represent their best interests, and not a scientist. They argue that waiting for federal health officials to approve boosters preparations could have resulted in people losing their lives.
Dr. Vivek Murthy (U.S. surgeon general) told reporters prior to the panel’s vote that the administration wanted to be open with the public about its promise of boosters providing long-lasting protection. He was not trying pressure regulators to take action. He stated that the administration wanted to be ready in case boosters are approved.
Murthy stated that the initial plan was contingent upon independent evaluations by the FDA and CDC. “We will be following that evaluation and their recommendations. We will ensure our final plan reflects them.”
He said, “What we did in August and what we will continue to do there is really prioritizing preparation and transparency.”
Officials from the Administration noted that Friday’s experts’ recommendation would likely result in boosters for those most likely to receive them if the whole population gave the green light. After their authorization in December last year, seniors were the first to be eligible for vaccination. Next came those who have preexisting conditions that could increase their risk of serious diseases. Officials said that these populations make up tens to millions of Americans.
The White House attempted to portray Friday’s vote in a positive light.
Kevin Munoz, White House spokesperson, stated that today was a significant step in providing better protection for Americans from COVID-19. “We are ready to give booster shots to eligible Americans after the process ends at the end next week.”
Dr. Leana Wein, an ex-Baltimore health commissioner, commented regularly on the pandemic. She said that the decision to use boosters is not just one of science. It’s one that is based on values.
She stated, “Because we’re considering questions like should additional doses be given to Americans or people all over the world, that’s not the right decision made for a scientific regulator committee.” “That decision is up to the President of the United States.”