Washington – Additional COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are not yet needed for the general population. This is according to leading scientists including two departing senior U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials and several from the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against the severe disease remains high,” the scientists write in a new opinion piece, published Monday in the medical journal The Lancet.
These health authorities say some people, including those with weakened immune systems, may need booster doses to heighten their protection against COVID-19, but that data supporting the need to give the general population additional doses aren’t convincing at this point.
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The commentary included experts from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as major academic institutions around the world. It heightens the ongoing tension among public health officials concerning if, and when, booster doses should be given. One issue surrounds the science—public health authorities are still interpreting data on infections and disease among vaccinated people to understand what those mean for immunity.
Another issue is the limited supply of vaccines for most of the world. Earlier this summer, the WHO asked for a moratorium on providing boosters, at least until the end of the year, until more people, especially in lower resource countries, can get vaccinated. The U.S.’s public health leaders, however, led by the White House, decided to roll out boosters beginning Sept. 20, despite the fact that such additional doses have not been deemed safe or effective yet by the FDA.
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The scientists said more evidence was needed to justify boosters. That view disagrees with U.S. government plans to begin offering another round of shots to many fully vaccinated Americans as soon as next week, contingent on approval from health regulators.
As COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant of the virus rise, President Joe Biden’s administration is concerned that infections among those already vaccinated are a sign that their protection is waning and has pushed boosters as a way to rebuild immunity.
The WHO has argued that vaccines are still needed for first doses around the globe.
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“Any decisions about the need for boosting or timing of boosting should be based on careful analyses of adequately controlled clinical or epidemiological data, or both, indicating a persistent and meaningful reduction in severe disease,” the scientists wrote in the Lancet medical journal.