As the White House continues to lay out plans for widespread administration of COVID vaccine booster shots, some experts have expressed their belief that third doses this soon are unnecessary and even potentially risky. A recent review of data published by 18 experts, including two U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials, concluded that none of the current data indicates that the general population need booster shots now. However, the review did note that there are two specific reasons some people could benefit from getting an additional dose.
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According to the review published in The Lancet, boosters “could be appropriate for some individuals in whom the primary vaccination … might not have induced adequate protection.” Per the researchers, these are people who received a vaccine with low efficacy and those who are immunocompromised.
An additional dose could help these people boost their immunity. However, the researchers noted that “people who did not respond robustly to the primary vaccination might also not respond well to a booster.” There is still more research to be done on booster shots, even among those who might benefit from getting them soon. “It is not known whether such immunocompromised individuals would receive more benefit from an additional dose of the same vaccine or of a different vaccine that might complement the primary immune response,” the researchers added.
The review’s writers acknowledged that at some point, the general population might benefit from booster shots. However, they do not believe that time is now. “Boosting might ultimately be needed in the general population because of waning immunity to the primary vaccination or because variants expressing new antigens have evolved to the point at which immune responses to the original vaccine antigens no longer protect adequately against currently circulating viruses,”the review reads. At the same time, “To date, none of these studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, even when there appear to be declines over time in vaccine efficacy against symptomatic disease.”
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On Aug. 26, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Biden Administration might advocate for booster shots as soon as six months after your second dose. However, experts have been divided on whether or not the additional dose is actually necessary that soon.
On Aug. 17, CNN reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA authorized and recommended booster shots for immunocompromised individuals, because they are unlikely to have had a robust response to the first two doses of Moderna or Pfizer’s COVID vaccines, but everyone else may have to wait longer. Per CNN, a committee of FDA advisers is set to meet on Sept. 17 to review the data they’ve collected and Pfizer’s application to administer a third dose of its vaccine.
“The message that boosting might soon be needed, if not justified by robust data and analysis, could adversely affect confidence in vaccines and undermine messaging about the value of primary vaccination. Public health authorities should also carefully consider the consequences for primary vaccination campaigns of endorsing boosters only for selected vaccines,” the scientists warned in the review.
The researchers pointed out that promoting booster programs for some vaccines and not others could be challenging to implement. They say that it’s essential to base booster recommendations on complete data on all the vaccines available in the U.S., “and to develop clear public health messaging before boosting is widely recommended.”
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