The average person does not yet need a Covid-19 booster, an international group of scientists – including two leading US regulators – wrote in a scientific journal on Monday.
Experts looked at vaccine performance studies and concluded that the injections worked well despite the extra-contagious delta variant, especially against serious illnesses.
“Even in populations with relatively high vaccination rates, the unvaccinated remain the main drivers of transmission” at this stage of the pandemic, they concluded.
The opinion piece, published in The Lancet, illustrates the intense scientific debate over who needs booster doses and when, a decision that the United States and other countries are grappling with.
After revelations of political interference in the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, President Joe Biden has vowed to “follow the science.” But the review raises the question of whether his administration is going faster than the experts.
The authors include two senior vaccine reviewers at the Food and Drug Administration, Drs. Phil Krause and Marion Gruber, who recently announced their departure this fall. Among the other 16 authors are leading vaccine researchers in the United States, Britain, France, South Africa and India, as well as scientists from the World Health Organization, which has already called for a moratorium on recalls until poor countries are better vaccinated.
In the United States, the White House began planning for boosters later this month, if the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree. FDA advisers will assess evidence of an additional Pfizer shot on Friday at a key public meeting.
Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin said the newspaper is “throwing gasoline on the fire” into debate over whether most Americans really need boosters and whether the White House is ahead. the scientists.
“It is always a fundamental process error to make a scientific announcement before public health agencies act and that is exactly what has happened here,” said Gostin, lawyer and health expert. public.
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The FDA did not respond to requests for comment Monday morning.
The United States is already offering an extra dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for people with severely weakened immune systems.
For the general population, the debate boils down to whether boosters should be given even though vaccines still offer high protection against serious illness – perhaps in the hope of blocking more mild “breakthrough” infections among people. fully vaccinated.
Last week, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said new data showed that as the delta increased, the unvaccinated were 4.5 times more likely than the fully vaccinated to be infected, more 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die. Yet government scientists are also assessing evidence that protection is waning in older people who were vaccinated early last winter.
The authors of Monday’s commentary reported looking at global studies since the delta began to rise, mostly US and European vaccines. The team concluded that “none of these studies provided credible evidence of significantly declining protection against serious disease.”
Because the body builds layers of immunity, gradual drops in antibody levels do not necessarily mean that overall efficacy decreases, “and reductions in the efficacy of mild disease vaccines do not necessarily predict reductions in. effectiveness (usually higher) against serious illnesses, ”they wrote. .
The more the virus spreads, the more it has the possibility of evolving into strains that could escape current vaccines. Lancet reviewers suggest there may be greater gains in creating booster doses that better match circulating variants, much like the flu vaccine is regularly updated, than just giving extra doses. of the original vaccine.
“There is now an opportunity to study variant-based boosters before there is a widespread need for them,” the scientists wrote.
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