A group of prominent doctors and scientists has advised the Biden administration to ditch plans to provide booster shots to all previously vaccinated adults, Politico reported.
Several “outside experts,” saying current data on vaccine performance did not justify using boosters, objected to the administration’s plan during a private, off-the-record call last week with federal health officials, Politico reported Wednesday.
The group told officials, who included President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci, that boosters should be given to people most at risk of severe COVID-19 to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
The Sept. 27 call was described as “tense” as Fauci argued that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee’s stance — that science did not support giving boosters to all adults — was incorrect. He also dismissed suggestions that the administration needed to choose between a broad U.S. booster campaign and donating vaccines to countries in need, Politico said.
Fauci also told the doctors and scientists that boosters could, and should, be given widely to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
“It was very tense,” one person told Politico. “More than anything, it was like Fauci felt he needed to make a point.”
Biden pledged to “follow the science” when he took office, and he enjoyed the backing of eminent physicians and researchers in his attempt to end the pandemic.
But recently, the White House’s vision for boosters has weakened those ties, Politico said.
Even some experts who back the president’s booster strategy question the messaging on the topic.
“It undermines credibility not just for [federal health] agencies but for the administration overall,” Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University, told Politico. “Somebody needs a communication lesson. Maybe many people do.”
Biden’s team has stressed the importance of using boosters to prevent breakthrough infections, even mild cases, as the Food and Drug Administration prepares to authorize boosters from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The FDA and CDC authorized limited use of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster late last month.
Politico said the Sept. 27 call had been planned for the week before until the White House abruptly rescheduled it after the CDC’s independent vaccine advisory committee recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech booster be reserved for high-risk groups.