Update (1255ET): As The FDA Panel hears from various health officials during the public comment section on the pros and cons of a booster shot, some very uncomfortable facts are coming out about vaccine efficacy and vaccine side effects – facts that anywhere else would immediately be deplatformed and banned from discourse.
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” FDA scientists Marion Gruber and Phil Krause wrote.
“If unnecessary boosting causes significant adverse reactions, there could be implications for vaccine acceptance that go beyond COVID-19 vaccines. Thus, widespread boosting should be undertaken only if there is clear evidence that it is appropriate,” the scientists said.
And then there was this slide…
If you are young and relatively health, Covid is not dangerous for you…
Pfizer shares are sliding but Moderna and BioNtech stock prices are plunging as Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat predicts that the panel of advisers won’t recommend booster shots (with the vote due later today)…
Raffat in a midday note Friday says voting members on the advisory committee “are already leaning against boosters” and the “FDA does not sound convinced by balance of evidence to date”
The CDC advisory group now says it will take up the need for booster shots at a meeting now scheduled for Sept 22nd and Sept 23rd. That makes it all but certain no booster rollout will happen Monday as the President gave as a date to possibly get boosters.
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The big day has finally arrived.
On Friday, a group of key FDA advisors – the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices – is meeting to debate and vote on Pfizer’s request for approval of a third COVID booster shot of its “Comirnaty” vaccine for all Americans age 16 and older. The two big questions they must answer are: is there enough evidence to suggest that booster shots are safe and should be made available to everyone, or should they be limited to a smaller group of older and immunocompromised Americans?
On the agenda are presentations from Pfizer, FDA staff, CDC staff, Israeli researchers, and others. At the end of the virtual meeting, which began at 0830ET Eastern, members will be asked to vote yes or no. That vote isn’t expected until later in the afternoon after a long day of debate.
Interested parties can watch the debate streaming live via YouTube:
After the White House waffled on whether the shot could be delivered five or eight months after the second dose, Pfizer has requested approval for the booster dose about six months after the second shot after submitting data showing efficacy wanes over time. And while Moderna has made a similar request and submitted similar data, it’s vaccine isn’t being considered on Friday. A committee of advisors from the CDC will meet next week to develop booster shots. Despite the drug companies’ best efforts, the FDA has seemingly remained unconvinced about the necessity of booster jabs.
In recent weeks, scientists have become increasingly vocal about their opposition for the US pushing ahead with booster jabs so soon. Most argue that these jabs would be better utilized in the developing world, where vaccination rates are lower, and the risk of a deadly new variant arising are higher. One exasperated scientist lamented that the scientific process was being “short circuited” by politics, a reference to President Biden’s push to start doling out booster jabs in the face of the delta driven wave that surged over the summer and – in the US, at least – appears to have finally peaked (with deaths hopefully soon to follow). The WHO has also urged President Biden to hold off on the booster jabs, arguing that there’s greater need elsewhere.
University of Florida biostatistician Ira Longini (a co-author on the Lancet paper we will mention below) said it would be “immoral” to begin widespread boosters before the rest of the world has been vaccinated, per CNN.
On the data front, new data published this week out of Israel offer a “compelling” case for a booster to be administered at some point as vaccines-induced efficacy wanes. But the data is based on a sample of just 300 patients.
So far, the real-world data is scant and inconclusive. While Israel has doled out hundreds of thousands of booster jabs to patients as young as 12, it hasn’t done much to stop the latest wave of cases (like in the US, deaths and hospitalizations are much lower than their 2020 peak).
Right now, evidence suggests boosters would have the greatest benefit for patients over 65, and the immunocompromised. Already, 1.9MM Americans have received booster jabs after they were authorized by the CDC for people with compromised immune systems.
Shares of vaccine-makers including Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna and others could be volatile Friday as advisers meet, and inevitable leaks hit the tap.
“My guess is we are going to end up with a recommendation for booster doses for a certain subpopulation, such as adults older than 65,” said Bill Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Before we go, let’s review: The FDA (and plenty of advisers and third parties) say vaccines are largely still effective enough that there’s no need for boosters. Pfizer has submitted data showing efficacy is waning, and that boosters are necessary. Dr. Fauci, and seven other top health officials including the heads of the CDC and FDA have spoken in favor of the need for booster jabs. The WHO and plenty of private scientists have insisted instead that those jabs should instead go to the emerging world where vaccination rates are much lower. For what it’s worth, when confronted about natural vs. vaccine-induced immunity, Dr. Fauci said “I really don’t know what to tell you.”
But most importantly: the White House says ‘GET YOUR BOOSTER JABS NOW!’ with President Biden pushing ahead with a plan to start doling out the jabs on Monday (contingent (though that plan must receive the blessing of the FDA and CDC first).
The bottom line is this: while the White House, Dr. Fauci and every other party involved claim to be following “the science”, but the reality is the science hasn’t really given us a clear answer. It’s clear that vaccine-induced immunity fades over time – and generally more quickly than natural immunity – but as for whether a third dose will make a material difference in preventing death and serious illness in the vast majority of patients? Scientists still haven’t collected and analyzed enough data.
The bigger question: will ‘Uncle Joe’ and myriad state and local officials require Americans to get booster jabs like they’re requiring even those with natural immunity to get vaccinated, potentially exposing these patients to rare side effects while it’s unclear whether they’re making a meaningful difference in immunity.
The panel is meeting between 1425 and 1625. It’s likely the decision won’t arrive until after the market close. We will update readers with the result once it’s finally released.