A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee on Friday recommended allowing a booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine only for recipients 65 years of age or older or at high risk of severe COVID-19. He declined to recommend recalls for other recipients aged 16 or older, as Pfizer and President Biden urged the FDA to do so.
Still, nearly three-quarters of vaccinated Americans say they would get a booster if it were available to them, according to a new Yahoo News / YouGov poll – a number that affects nearly all age groups and not just older Americans and more vulnerable.
It remains to be seen how the overwhelming majority of vaccinated Americans who are open to recalls will react to Friday’s vote and the pending FDA decision on clearance. (The agency is not obligated to follow the panel’s recommendations, but it usually is.) Last month, the president announced a plan to make injections of recall against coronaviruses from September 20. It is almost certain to miss this deadline.
At the same time, the Yahoo News / YouGov survey of 1,610 American adults – which was conducted from September 14 to 16, just before the FDA advisory vote – also found that Americans were deeply in conflict over the possibility of getting a third injection before most of the rest of the world’s population has gotten their first, which might temper any disappointment.
When asked if national booster shots or first shots for developing countries were “more important,” less than a third of American adults (32%) responded “offering booster shots to the larger number of Americans possible ”. More (38%) say “give the first vaccines to as many unvaccinated people in other countries as possible,” and almost as many (30%) say they are unsafe. Among fully vaccinated Americans, the share who want to prioritize booster shots is increasing slightly (to 39%), but the share who thinks people overseas should get vaccinated first (45%).
This tension between the personal and public health dimensions of boosters was clearly visible at Friday’s meeting. Citing data from Israel and elsewhere on the decreased effectiveness of vaccines against infection – particularly the hyper-contagious Delta variant – the Biden administration argued that it preferred not to wait for hospitalizations among vaccines increase in the United States before moving on to strengthen immunity.
Biden officials also reported Israel’s recent decision to offer callbacks to all residents over 12 – as well as the UK’s new policy of offering callbacks to all people over 50 and more, as well as clinically vulnerable residents and healthcare workers – as a sign the United States should follow suit. In its request, Pfizer asked the FDA to authorize recalls for all those vaccinated six months after their second dose.
Still, some scientists hesitated. Two FDA vaccine experts announced plans to resign due to what they saw as undue pressure from the White House to green light booster shots, then co-wrote an article in the medical journal The Lancet this week arguing that early evidence of waning immunity to infection does not warrant booster shots for all Americans because vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death – and because less than 2% of residents in developing countries have received at least one dose so far.
“It is not clear that everyone needs strengthening except for a subset of the population who would clearly be at high risk for serious illness,” said Dr Michael Kurilla, member of the committee and responsible for the National Institutes of Health.
As Delta – which can infect and spread among those vaccinated – has caused huge outbreaks in recent months, more vaccinated Americans have expressed interest in protecting themselves with boosters. In mid-July, about 6 in 10 (62%) told Yahoo News and YouGov that they would get a callback if it was available to them; now 73 percent say they would. Vaccinated seniors are both the most vulnerable and the most interested, with 79% of them saying they would receive a third injection, but that number remains almost as high among vaccinated Americans aged 45 to 64 ( 74%) and from 30 to 44 years (72%). . It drops to 63% in vaccinated adults under the age of 30, likely reflecting the lower risk COVID poses to their health. But even then, only 12% of those young Americans say they would not get a booster, which matches the 10% of those 30 to 64 years vaccinated and 8% of the elderly who say the same.
Yet as the personal openness of vaccinated Americans to boosters has grown, so have concerns about global fairness. Over the past two weeks, the number of Americans who say it’s more important to get the first vaccines to as many unvaccinated people as possible in other countries has increased by 4 percentage points, while the number that says it’s more important to offer booster shots to as many Americans as possible has declined by the same amount. This shift was even more pronounced among fully immunized Americans, who moved from a preference for boosters for Americans by a 7 point margin (45% to 38%) to a preference for early vaccines for other countries in the world. ‘roughly the same amount (44% to 39 percent).
These trends likely reflect two competing, but not necessarily contradictory, realities: that recalls could do good in the United States, but that getting the whole world vaccinated also benefits Americans. On the one hand, the boosters would strengthen the protection of individual Americans and could even help slow the spread of the virus in the United States. An Israeli public health official warned the committee on Friday that 60 percent of critically and critically ill patients and 45 percent of those who died in that country’s “fourth wave” this summer were fully immunized. She added that after offering boosters to all those vaccinated, Israel now has on average about half the number of critically and critically ill patients it expected.
On the other hand, outbreaks in developing countries – like the one that recently ravaged India, where Delta was first identified and where only 1% of the population was vaccinated when the variant took hold. taken off – could still kill many more people. Ultimately, this increased transmission of the coronavirus could allow the emergence of more dangerous, or even completely vaccine-resistant, variants.
The Biden administration, for its part, insisted the United States had enough vaccine for booster shots and global donations. The Washington Post reported on Friday that the White House had reached an agreement to purchase hundreds of millions of additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to give to the world, in addition to the 500 million purchased in June. The administration also plans to host a virtual summit of world leaders on Wednesday, during which they will set a new goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by next September.
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,610 American adults surveyed online from September 14-16, 2021. This sample was weighted by gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census, as well as the 2020 presidential vote (or not) and registration status of voters. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all American adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6 percent.
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