The average person doesn’t need a COVID-19 booster yet, an international group of scientists — including two top U.S. regulators — wrote Monday in a scientific journal.
The experts reviewed studies of the vaccines’ performance and concluded the shots are working well despite the extra-contagious delta variant, especially against severe disease.
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“Even in populations with fairly high vaccination rates, the unvaccinated are still the major drivers of transmission” at this stage of the pandemic, they concluded.
After revelations of political meddling in the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, President Joe Biden has promised to “follow the science.” But the review raises the question of whether his administration is moving faster than the experts.
Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin said the paper “throws gasoline on the fire” in the debate about whether most Americans truly need boosters and whether the White House got ahead of scientists.
“It’s always a fundamental error of process to make a scientific announcement before the public health agencies have acted and that’s exactly what happened here,” said Gostin, a lawyer and public health specialist.
The U.S. already offers an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to people with severely weakened immune systems.
For the general population, the debate is boiling down to whether boosters should be given even though the vaccines are still offering high protection against severe disease — possibly in hopes of blocking milder “breakthrough” infections among the fully vaccinated.
Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said new data showed that as delta surged, the unvaccinated were 4.5 times more likely than the fully vaccinated to get infected, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized and 11 times more likely to die. Still, government scientists are also weighing hints that protection is waning among older adults who were vaccinated early last winter.
The more the virus spreads, the more opportunity it has to evolve into strains that could escape current vaccines. The Lancet reviewers suggest there could be bigger gains from creating booster doses that better match circulating variants, much like flu vaccine is regularly updated, than from just giving extra doses of the original vaccine.
THE BIDEN PLAN
Key parts of Biden’s plan to confront the delta variant surge
Schools and events
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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.