Pfizer makes case for booster dose of COVID-19 shot, but US officials skeptical

Coronavirus Vaccine

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Pfizer made its case Monday to U.S. health officials for why a third dose of its vaccine is necessary, but the nation’s top medical experts say it’s too soon.

“That really reflects the power of these vaccines, and the fact that they are very durable,” Amesh Adalja of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health said. “So I don’t think for the general population, in the short run, boosters are going to be necessary.”

Adalja added the booster shot isn’t immediately necessary because fully vaccinated people have shown strong immunity to COVID-19 variants. More than 99% of new COVID-19 deaths are unvaccinated cases.

But, medical experts haven’t ruled out booster shots down the road.

“Right now we are preparing full throttle for doing boosters, if we need them,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

The White House suggests Pfizer’s push is based only on its own internal data, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations take more into account.

“Some of that information the [Food and Drug Administration] and the CDC look at does include some private sector data,” press secretary Jen Psaki said. “That can be part of how they assess what recommendations will be. But it’s a much broader swath of information than that.”

Israel’s health ministry has already approved a third Pfizer dose for older and vulnerable populations.
The company said it was scheduled to have the meeting with the Food and Drug Administration and other officials Monday, days after Pfizer asserted that booster shots would be needed within 12 months.

Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten told The Associated Press last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five- to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier — evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.

Pfizer’s push comes as the delta variant, a more contagious mutation of COVID-19, continues to spread in the U.S. especially in states with low vaccination rates.

Hospital chains in the southeast are seeing surges in cases, including a hospital in Springfield, Missouri that ran out of ventilators.

“A month ago, we had 35 patients and we had 105 last week,” Ashley Kimberling Casad, vice president of clinical services at CoxHealth, said. “So in less than a month we tripled.”

Currently only about 48% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated. Some parts of the country have far lower immunization rates, and in those places the delta variant is surging. Last week, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said that’s leading to “two truths” — highly immunized swaths of America are getting back to normal while hospitalizations are rising in other places.

Fauci said it was inexplicable that some Americans are so resistant to getting a vaccine when scientific data show how effective it is in staving off COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, and he was dismayed by efforts to block making vaccinations more accessible, such as Biden’s suggestion of door-to-door outreach.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., agreed Sunday that there is a vaccine resistance in Southern and rural states like his because “you have that more conservative approach, skepticism about government.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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