Senior U.S. officials say it’s too early to seek recalls, but vaccine maker Pfizer is pushing for government approval and Israel has announced it will offer booster shots to those at risk who already had received the vaccine.
Here is what is driving the debate:
The rise of the Delta variant
First detected in India and now the dominant form of new coronavirus infections in many countries, the Delta variant of the coronavirus has raised doubts as to whether currently available vaccines provide sufficient protection.
A booster would be warranted if there was a substantial increase in hospitalizations or deaths among those vaccinated, according to experts. So far in the United States, the overwhelming majority of serious illnesses involve unvaccinated people.
Israeli study shows protection is declining
The Israeli Ministry of Health announced on July 5 that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was only 64% effective in preventing transmission and disease of the Delta variant, a reduction from its 95% effectiveness in May. .
Israel’s health ministry said its data, which has not been released, showed protection had waned in people who received the vaccine in January or February. On July 11, the Israeli government announced it would offer a booster to adults with weakened immune systems.
Indicator of the dilemma facing governments, the Palestinian Authority is still struggling to administer a first round of vaccines to Palestinians in the occupied territories, while the Israeli government has refused to share its vaccine supply.
Dr Fauci says ‘too soon’
Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease scientist, said on July 11 that it was too early for the US government to recommend another injection, but he would not rule out the possibility that booster shots would be needed. in the future.
“Right now, given the data and information we have, we don’t need to give people a third chance,” he said. “That’s not to say we stop there… Studies are underway right now, underway as we speak, to look at the feasibility, if and when we should stimulate people. “
However, Dr. David Kessler, scientific director of the Biden administration, told the U.S. Congress in April that booster shots may be needed within a year.
Antibodies jump five to ten times
Early data from a Pfizer booster study suggests that people’s antibody levels increase five to ten times after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier.
US government officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA rebuffed Pfizer’s claims, saying they did not consider the booster injections necessary “at this time.”
Pfizer to seek regulatory approvals from US and EU
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said last week that they would ask U.S. and European regulators within weeks to allow a booster dose due to an increased risk of infection after six months.
The companies have not shared data showing this risk, but said it will be made public soon. A meeting with federal health officials to discuss the matter was scheduled for Monday, Pfizer said.
Leading experts question the need
Leading vaccine experts questioned Pfizer’s rationale and said more data was needed to justify a booster, especially as many countries are still struggling to deliver initial doses.
“It is disappointing that with such a complicated decision they have taken such a one-sided approach,” Dr Larry Corey, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle who is overseeing trials of the US vaccine, told Reuters news agency. COVID-19.