The Biden administration’s top health experts said Wednesday that COVID-19 booster shots are necessary for even young and healthy adults, despite conflicting data, and hinted a decision on the matter would arrive by the end of the week.
Although COVID-19 breakthrough cases are becoming more common as vaccine efficacy wanes over time, severe disease, hospitalization and death are rare for vaccinated and otherwise healthy adults. But the nation’s leading voices on public health said they want to offer already vaccinated Americans as much protection as possible.
“I don’t know of any other vaccine that we only worry about keeping people out of the hospital. I think an important thing is to prevent people from getting symptomatic disease,” White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci said during a press conference with other officials.
The Biden administration already authorized COVID-19 booster shots for older adults and people at high risk because of their jobs or health, as well as all Americans who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
FDA vaccine advisers twice voted against opening up booster shots to young and healthy adults, arguing it’s not necessary to offer this group extra protection against a disease that will likely become endemic in the population.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that the CDC’s independent vaccine advisers would discuss boosters after the FDA decides on Pfizer’s application for emergency authorization of its COVID-19 booster.
Fauci pointed to a study from the United Kingdom that showed people who received the Pfizer vaccine got a major boost in vaccine efficacy after receiving an additional shot, up from 62.5 percent to 94 percent.
“The rate of disease is markedly lower for those who receive a booster shot, indicating that our boosters are working,” Walensky said.
She added that the CDC and FDA are not considering changing the definition of fully vaccinated if COVID-19 booster shots are authorized for all adults.