Pfizer to discuss vaccine booster with US officials

Coronavirus Vaccine

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Pfizer says it plans to meet with top U.S. health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorization of a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser acknowledged that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.

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.

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci didn’t rule out the possibility but said it was too soon for the government to recommend another shot. He said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA did the right thing last week by pushing back against Pfizer’s assertion with their statement that they did not view booster shots as necessary “at this time.”

Fauci said clinical studies and laboratory data have yet to fully bear out the need for a booster to the current two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen.

“Right now, given the data and the information we have, we do not need to give people a third shot,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we stop there. … There are studies being done now ongoing as we speak about looking at the feasibility about if and when we should be boosting people.”

The CDC and FDA made an unusual move last week after Pfizer announced it would seek authorization for a third dose of its vaccine, Americans fully vaccinated against coronavirus “do not need a booster shot” at this time.

“People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as Delta. People who are not vaccinated remain at risk,” the joint statement read in part. “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. FDA, CDC, and NIH are engaged in a science-based, rigorous process to consider whether or when a booster might be necessary.” 

Fauci said it was quite possible in the coming months “as data evolves” that the government may urge a booster based on such factors as age and underlying medical conditions. “Certainly it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely at some time, we will need a boost,” Fauci said.

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.

Experts say the delta variant spreads more easily because of mutations that make it better at latching onto cells in our bodies. The CDC estimated Wednesday that the delta variant is now the dominant strain of coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for more than 51% of cases in the country.

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.

The grassroots component of the federal vaccination campaign has been in operation since April, when supplies of shots began outpacing demand. It was outlined and funded by Congress in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March and overwhelmingly is carried out by local officials and private sector workers and volunteers.

Fauci appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union,” ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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