Vials of Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) vaccine labels can be seen in this illustration image dated March 19, 2021.
Given Ruvic | Reuters
A group of CDC scientists said Wednesday that there isn’t enough data to support recommending Covid-19 booster vaccinations to the general population – at this point in time – but more at-risk people like the elderly or transplant recipients may need an additional one Dose.
The CDC’s Covid-19 Working Group on Immunization Practices Advisory Committee did not rule out the possibility that the general population may need booster vaccinations if immunity to the vaccines wanes or a variant reduces the effectiveness of current vaccinations.
“Boosters may be needed for a broader population. However, it could also be that the need for boosters of the Covid vaccine can only be demonstrated in some populations, “Dr. Sarah Oliver, co-leader of the working group and medical epidemiologist at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases of the CDC.
A recent study by researchers at John Hopkins University, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that booster shots can be beneficial for people with weakened immune systems. Oliver said the agency should monitor residents of long-term care facilities, the elderly, medical workers and the immunocompromised.
The working group recommended that the CDC only consider booster vaccinations “after there were signs of waning protection,” Oliver said, which means that the vaccines have been less effective over time or the antibodies that protect against Covid have waned over time . The agency could also consider using booster syringes if a variant emerges that significantly reduces the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“I have to agree with the interpretation of the working group in the sense that there is currently no data to support recommendations to support boosters,” said Dr. Sharon Frey, ACIP member and clinical director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Saint Louis University Medical School. “There is currently no evidence against the denial of protection.”
However, Frey said she was open to giving transplant patients a third chance or if infections increase in the general population, indicating many landmark cases in fully vaccinated individuals. There have been at least 3,729 breakthrough infections in the United States to date, leading to hospitalization or death, according to CDC data.
“I think the only thing we can do right now is if we see an increase in reinfection in people or new infections in people who have been vaccinated, that’s our indication that we need to act quickly,” Frey said .
Dr. Grace Lee, chair of the ACIP safety group and professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine, also said she would like to see more evidence of breakthrough cases before recommending a booster vaccination.
“I would like to see more certainty with the safety data if we talk about an increase before it is clear what the risk data will be,” she said. “When we see serious breakthrough cases, I think decision-making continues even when the security data is uncertain.”