An international group of vaccine experts have come out in opposition of providing booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines to the general population, an opinion that pushes back against increasing efforts in the United States and other nations battling a surge of new cases.
In an essay published Monday in The Lancet medical journal, the experts say recent studies show the current vaccines in use around the world continue to provide strong protection against the virus despite the presence of the more contagious delta variant, especially against severe illness and hospitalization.
The trend to provide booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines began after studies out of Israel suggested the two-dose Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness had significantly decreased among elderly people who were inoculated at the beginning of this year. The data prompted Israel to begin administering booster shots to people 50 years of age or older.
The authors suggest that modifying the vaccines to match the specific COVID-19 variants is a better approach than providing extra doses of the original vaccine.
The authors include two leading scientists with the World Health Organization, Ana-Maria Henao-Restrepo and Soumya Swaminathan, and Dr. Marian Gruber and Dr. Philip Krause, two key officials in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine review office who are leaving their posts before the end of the year. The New York Times recently reported that Gruber and Krause are upset over the Biden administration’s recent announcement that booster shots would be offered for some Americans beginning next month, well before the FDA had time to properly review the data.
The FDA is nearing a decision on whether to recommend COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12 years of age and booster shots of the current vaccines already approved for adult Americans.
Both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month recommended a third shot of Pfizer or Moderna for some people with weakened immune systems.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, recently implored wealthy nations to forgo COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the rest of the year to ensure that low- and lower-middle-income countries have more access to the vaccine. Tedros had previously asked high and upper-middle income nations not to provide boosters until September.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to announce Wednesday that the government will provide COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for citizens 50 years of age and older in time for the upcoming winter months.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin is self-isolating after several members of his entourage tested positive for COVID-19, according to a statement by the Kremlin.
President Putin has tested negative for the virus, but has decided not to travel to Tajikistan for upcoming security conferences, the statement added. He met Monday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and held a separate public event with several members of Russia’s Paralympic team.
Putin has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with the domestically-developed two-dose Sputnik V vaccine.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.