GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A West Michigan doctor says people should be encouraged, not discouraged, by a decision from a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel that recommends a Pfizer booster shot for select groups of people.
On Friday, the panel voted 18-0 to authorize a third dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot for people 65 years and older or those at high risk of severe infection.
The decision came after the panel overwhelmingly opposed an initial plan, which would have given a booster to everyone over the age of 16. Members cited a lack of safety data and doubts about the value of it on a mass scale.
“Pushback from scientists is really healthy and appropriate,” said Dr. Andrew Jameson, division chief of infectious diseases at Mercy Health. “We should be talking about this in a critical way and not just doing things because someone put a deadline or timeline in place.”
Jameson says current research suggests there is a decline in antibodies from Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine over time, but not in the memory cells provided by the vaccine, which prevents serious disease and death.
“If we’re going to roll out a big implementation in a huge kind of this mass vaccine effort again, to give everyone a third shot, we want it not only to help stop any kind of infection at all, we want it to actually improve outcomes too,” said Jameson.
At this time, there is no information about the efficacy of boosters for Moderna’s COVID-19 shot; although, Jameson says it appears to provide longer-lasting immunity.
Johnson & Johnson is set to submit data on its second dose by the end of the month, but a separate decision would be needed before moving forward.
It’s not clear when eligible Americans would be able to get their booster shots. The Biden administration had previously said all Americans would have access to them by Sept. 20.
Jamesons says with most hospitals short-staffed and bust, administration of the shots would likely fall onto local clinics and pharmacies. There is an abundant supply of doses. He adds there should now be a focus on the global vaccination effort to put a stop to any mutations that could further the pandemic.
“Really use some of our big stockpile to help the rest of the world in an equity strategy but also a self-interest strategy,” said Jameson. “The less mutations there are, the less chance we have another delta coming out.”
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