A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel rejected a Pfizer plan to approve COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans. The federal panel decided to only endorse the additional shots to those 65 and older, or those who have a high risk factors for severe disease.
The two votes shocked some watching the Biden Administration attempt to maximize protection against COVID-19 as the delta variant continues to raise havoc on unvaccinated communities.
Large portions of the U.S. population are still unvaccinated — despite multiple approvals from the FDA, as well as recommendations from nearly all medical and public health officials.
The panel who voted on Friday advise the FDA on decisions. Only two members of the panel voted in favor of booster shots for everyone. Members of the committee said there was a lack of safety data on extra doses — and the effectiveness of another round of shots.
Over the summer the Biden Administration said that they would push for booster shots eight months after vaccination.
While the FDA hasn’t made a final decision — it’s not likely that they run against the committee’s recommendation.
Regardless the booster shots would only apply to those who received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines will get the green light for another dose through a separate process.
At this point though it’s not clear when that could happen.
“I don’t think a booster dose is going to significantly contribute to controlling the pandemic,” said Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University. “And I think it’s important that the main message we transmit is that we’ve got to get everyone two doses.”
As for the long-term risks and how booster shots could help slow transmission in the U.S., Dr. Amanda Cohn of the CDC says it’s simple: “At this moment it is clear that the unvaccinated are driving transmission in the United States.”
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