Many scientists believe the Biden administration’s plan to make COVID-19 booster shots available next month “sent a terrible message” to Americans, undercutting confidence in the vaccines.
Kaiser Health News reported there are scientists who see the move as rash and based on weak evidence. More information, they say, is needed regarding potential side effects or adverse effects from a booster shot.
“I think we’ve scared people,” Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told KHN, a non-profit news organization funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
“We sent a terrible message,” said Offit, who serves as an adviser to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.
“We just sent a message out there that people who consider themselves fully vaccinated were not fully vaccinated. And that’s the wrong message, because you are protected against serious illness.”
The Biden administration, however, is aware of recent studies from Israel, the Mayo Clinic and others showing, amid the delta variant surge, a high percentage of COVID-19 cases among people who have been fully vaccinated.
According to Centers for Disease Control Data, 51% of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated as of Thursday.
KHN observed: “In essence, officials are caught between a rock and a hard place ― trying to be prepared while simultaneously not undermining messaging about how well the existing vaccines work.”
President Biden said this week that beginning in late September, boosters will be made available to adults eight months after they receive the second dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID vaccine.
The plan, however, has not been approved by a CDC advisory panel, and the FDA has not authorized it.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said the administration is “concerned that this pattern of decline we are seeing will continue in the months ahead, which could lead to reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.”
However, KHN reports, many scientists and public health experts warn there’s no data showing that making booster shots widely available provides a clear benefit.
Further, the Biden administration’s message confuses people about the purpose of the COVID vaccines, said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“They’re not a force field. They don’t repel the virus from your body. They train your immune system to respond when you become infected … with the goal of keeping you out of the hospital,” she explained to KHN.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, admitted Wednesday he doesn’t know if the boosters will slow the spread of the virus.
And Nuzzo said there’s no data on possible side effects of a third shot.
KHN noted mRNA vaccines are being linked to cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, particularly in young men.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that U.S. officials are reviewing the possibility the Moderna vaccine is linked to a higher risk of a heart condition in younger adults than previously believed, according to two people familiar with the review who emphasized the side effect still probably remains very uncommon.
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