Two top federal health officials reportedly warned the Biden administration Thursday they might not rubber-stamp COVID vaccine booster shots for the general public as expected later this month.
Instead, they might only recommend certain recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine be added to the list of people approved for third shots, the New York Times reported Friday.
President Biden previously announced a plan that would ask all fully vaccinated Americans to get a booster shot eight months after they received their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
He said the booster program was expected to begin Sept. 20, and he planned to get his third shot once eligible.
Pfizer took until last week to complete its booster shot application with the FDA, and Moderna only initiated its application on Wednesday.
On Sept. 17, the FDA’s outside advisory committee is due to publicly review Pfizer’s data supporting a booster shot. Pfizer is asking for approval on booster doses for people 16 and older, but at least one prominent member of the FDA panel who works at a children’s hospital in Pennsylvania has called the request premature.
“There is no compelling reason to get a third dose” now, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told The Times.
He said the Biden administration’s expectation that the FDA and CDC would go along with its promoted timeline was partially responsible for the announced departures this week of two top FDA vaccine regulators.
“Bypassing and marginalizing those agencies led veterans who you need in this pandemic to leave the FDA,” Dr. Offit said, referring to the departures of Dr. Marion Gruber, who heads the FDA’s vaccines office, and her deputy, Dr. Philip Krause.
Gruber and Krause reportedly said they wanted to see more data before encouraging third booster shots for the general population starting this month.
While research shows the full benefits of vaccination appear to wane over time, it’s still not clear when exactly the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines get to a point that they no longer offer robust enough protection to ward off severe illness and hospitalization.