Physicians, scientists privately urge White House to scale back booster plan

Prominent physicians and scientists are asking the White House to scale back its plan to provide COVID-19 boosters to all previously vaccinated Americans, five sources familiar with the matter told Politico on Oct. 6.

The experts opposed the White House's plan during a Sept. 27 private call that included CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, and Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House's chief medical adviser.

The physicians and scientists said current data on COVID-19 vaccines' efficacy does not justify broad use of boosters, and the shots should be offered only to Americans at high risk of severe COVID-19, according to the sources. 

The call took place amid ongoing tensions between the CDC, FDA and other federal officials working on the country's booster plan as guidance between agencies has differed.

On Sept. 22, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for Americans who are ages 65 and older, have a job that increases their risk of infection or are at high risk of severe COVID-19.

On Sept. 23, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices endorsed booster shots of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for tens of millions of Americans. However, the CDC's vaccine panel voted 9-6 not to endorse boosters for people with jobs that increase their risk of infection, going against the FDA's authorization.

In a rare move, Dr. Walensky on Sept. 24 overruled the CDC's advisory panel, saying people whose jobs put them at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection should be eligible for Pfizer boosters.

Many Americans still feel confused about the booster plan and are unsure of their eligibility. Additionally, the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines feel left in the dark about how they fit into the plan, according to the report.

"It undermines credibility not just for [federal health] agencies but for the administration overall,” Irwin Redlener, MD, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University in New York City, told Politico. "Somebody needs a communication lesson. Maybe many people do."

 

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