Division Grows Over Need of COVID-19 Booster Shots

While the White House says it’s ready for the rollout, doctors aren’t so sure

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Just hours before the Food and Drug Administration committee is set to meet, there is growing division over the need for COVID-19 vaccine boosters. 

While the White House says it’s ready for the rollout, doctors aren’t so sure.

Pfizer says its data shows booster shots are needed six months after the second dose as protection begins to wane. But its vaccine continues to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization and serious illness. 

 A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found effectiveness of a booster dose but other scientists writing in the Lancet say, “current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population."  

Some doctors worry about the messages from the White House – preempting regulators' guidance. 

"Those eligible will be able to get a booster right away,” said President Joe Biden.

But Dr. John Moore said, “It has made people feel that the vaccines aren't working, when they are still working.”

UCSF Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi believes there will be a compromise. 

“What I think is going to happen, is they’re going to say, ‘let’s give third shots to those over 60, people in long-term care facilities, and maybe even healthcare workers,” said Gandhi, who pointed at recent data as to why. 

“In countries that are developed and had lots of vaccines but had low vaccine uptake, Israel and the U.S. are those two countries, there is more rates of circulating virus,” said Gandhi. “Basically, we have more transmission going on. And in that case, someone who is over 60 for example, is more susceptible to a breakthrough that could be more severe.” 

But for those younger than 60, Dr. Gandhi doesn’t think boosters are needed yet. 

“I’m not worried we need three doses just because, I think we need three doses for some populations because we have too much virus,” she said.  

If the FDA does authorize the use of a booster, the CDC would still have to determine who qualifies for one. 

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