Use of COVID boosters could be extended, say U.S. health officials

The FDA advisory body this week recommended booster shots of the coronavirus for people over 65 and those at high risk.

Senior health officials in the United States have said broader approval of COVID-19 booster shots could be weeks away, after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert advisory panel this week advised a third blow for a limited segment of the population.

The director of the National Institutes of Health said on Friday that the FDA panel’s decision to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster injections to Americans 65 and older as well as those at high risk of serious illness was a step preliminary.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Dr. Francis Collins predicted wider approval for most Americans “in the coming weeks.”

Collins said the panel’s recommendation was correct based on a “snapshot” of the data available on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-shot regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the United States and Israel continues to show diminishing effectiveness among larger groups of people who will need to be processed soon.

“I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to expand the boosters beyond the list they approved on Friday,” said Collins, who also appeared on Face the Nation’s show. CBS Sunday.

Some wealthy countries including the US and UK are considering coronavirus booster shots amid a recent spike in cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) this month called for a moratorium on booster shots amid concerns over vaccine supplies to poorer countries, where millions of people have yet to receive their first vaccine.

A group of international scientists also said last week that even with the threat from Delta, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage of the pandemic.”

“Any decision regarding the need for a recall or the timing of the recall should be based on careful analyzes of properly controlled clinical or epidemiological data, or both, indicating a persistent and significant reduction in serious illness,” the scientists wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

Dr Anthony Fauci, who is chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, on Sunday praised the FDA advisory board’s plan to cover “a good chunk” of Americans. But he stressed that “this is not the end of the story” based on changing data and said the recommendations would likely be extended in the coming weeks or months.

In the United States, people who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still awaiting advice on possible booster shots.

“The actual data that we will get [on] that third hit for Moderna and second for J&J is literally a few weeks away, ”Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press program.

“We are currently working on it to get the data to the FDA so they can review it and make a decision on boosters for these people.”

The FDA will review the advisory panel’s advice and make its own decision, likely within days. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also expected to weigh in this week.

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