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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to give Americans ages 50 and up the choice to receive a second COVID-19 booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
The New York Times said Friday that the move would be made without “recommending outright” that the group get one, citing “several people familiar with the plan.”
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However, the publication noted that “major uncertainties have complicated the decision,” including how long the protection from the second booster would last, as well as how to present the White House’s overall goal to the public.
Politico reported Wednesday that the booster could be recommended for adults 65 and older and that health officials have reviewed recent data showing vaccine effectiveness waning.
Additionally, there’s the question of timing and whether to wait until a potential new variant-fueled wave threatens the U.S. – especially as pandemic relief funds dwindle.
In an interview last Monday on “In the Bubble with Andy Slavitt,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said there is currently no funding for fourth doses.
“Right now, we don’t have enough money for fourth doses, if they’re called for – booster shots, additional booster shots for all Americans. We don’t have the funding, if we were to need a variant-specific vaccine in the future. Immediately, we don’t have money to order more of the very effective monoclonal treatments,” he said.
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“Already, we’ve had to cut back allocations to our state partners by 30%, so we preserve the inventory that we do have,” Zients added, calling on Congress to take action.
That said, The Times reported that people familiar with the deliberations said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could authorize a second booster as soon as early next week.
Although studies have found that COVID-19 vaccines are less effective against the omicron variant of concern, they still provide strong protection against severe disease and early research indicates they appear just as effective against the BA.2 sub-variant spreading across the globe.
And, while Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech have requested emergency authorization of second booster shots – Moderna’s for all adults – The Times wrote that no meetings of FDA or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committees are scheduled ahead of the purported decision.
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The FDA’s advisory committee will meet in April to discuss what the overall vaccine strategy for the Biden administration should be during the third year of the pandemic.
CDC data shows that 217.3 million Americans are fully vaccinated and 97.1 million have received a booster.
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