A follow-up meeting of last week's Food and Drug Administration committee will see an advisory committee to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention debate who should get booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. If these agencies directors approve, millions more Americans will be eligible for additional shots by the end of the week.
All indications are that they will take them. Boosting the effectiveness of the Covid vaccines has proved to be very popular. According to the CDC more than 10,000,000 Americans have received the third doses since August. This combination of Pfizer boosters and immunity-boosting shots for people with immunocompromised, as well as some shots that were given on the sly, was approved by Pfizer. In the US, there are more boosters being given now than in the first doses.
The surge for boosters is likely to increase once the Moderna or J&J shots have been cleared. However, it's not just about consuming the doses that Americans refuse to take. The Covid vaccine is being reframed as a preventative measure against infection and not a death-preventative measure. The White House has promised that increasing the US's home supply won't reduce the number of vaccines sent abroad. However, the US is setting an example for international priorities in pandemic prevention.
It is foolish to assume that spending boosters here will not prevent disease and death elsewhere. Nahid Bhadelia, a doctor and founder of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Policy and Research at Boston University, states that boosters can be used in other countries. The US may be the first country to declare Boosters for All. This could mean that other countries will follow their lead. This means that worldwide doses will be less.
It was controversial for the White House to announce a comprehensive plan for booster shots this summer. Anyone aged 18 and older who has received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines could receive a third eight months later. This proposal was rejected by the World Health Organization. They had requested that rich countries hold off on booster plans until low income countries could accumulate enough vaccines to launch vaccination campaigns. It didn't do anything to reach the unvaccinated, who are the main drivers of the US pandemic. It also appeared to question the FDA's decision to approve vaccines in December. This was done to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. According to agency data, these are still possible.
Five weeks later, FDA and CDC approved a Pfizer booster. However, they had stricter guidelines. After intense discussions about whether the data support giving one to every adult as promised by President Joe Biden, they decided to limit the shots to those who are at particular risk. These risks were 65 years or older because the immune system is less capable with age; 18 or more and have an underlying condition; and 18 or more and work in high-exposure jobs. According to the White House this decision authorized shots for 60 millions of the 104.5million Americans who received two doses.