Dr. Anthony Fauci “strongly recommended” Sunday that people only get a Covid-19 booster shot when the government approves it for their specific demographic and shot, suggesting that while a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel only approved Pfizer booster shots for certain groups this week, their recommendation will likely change as more data comes in.
Fauci defended the Biden administration’s earlier decision to announce that booster shots would roll out for everyone starting September 20, saying on Meet the Press Sunday that announcement was “always contingent” on FDA approval.
Though the FDA panel has so far only approved Pfizer/BioNTech booster shots for senior citizens, those with underlying conditions and people who face a higher risk of Covid-19 exposure, Fauci said on CNN more data is coming in on a “daily and weekly basis” and he “believe[s] you will see an evolution of this process.”
“The story is not over yet,” Fauci said on CNN, adding on Meet the Press that while he “believe[s] that there’s a good chance” the data will say a “much broader blanket of people” need booster shots, “we don’t know that for sure now.”
“The wait is not going to be very long” for decisions on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots, Fauci said on CNN, predicting the FDA will be able to move forward with analyzing data on those shots in approximately two to three weeks.
While he realizes it’s “human nature” that people will get booster shots even before they’re officially approved, Fauci said government medical experts are “strongly recommending that people do not do that” and people should instead wait for official approval from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“There’s always a theoretical risk” to getting a Covid-19 booster shot before it’s officially approved “because the studies have not been done” to prove for sure that it’s safe and effective, Fauci said on CNN. “It is very unlikely that there will be a risk there…but scientifically you don’t want to go by unlikely, you want to have some scientific proof.”
What To Watch For
The FDA will now need to determine whether to grant approval for booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for certain groups based on the FDA panel’s recommendations. Fauci said an advisory panel at the CDC will then make its determination on the Pfizer boosters “immediately after.” Should both those approvals pan out, Fauci said it’s “quite possible” Pfizer booster shots could roll out to vulnerable groups by the end of this week. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain has previously said the Biden administration is prepared to roll out booster shots and have them widely available “probably the very same day” that they’re officially approved.
While Fauci said booster shots are important and that getting them is not a “luxury,” the medical advisor stressed the federal government’s primary priority is still getting first and second shots to those who are still unvaccinated. “Our highest priority is not getting boosters,” Fauci said on Meet the Press. “We think it’s important to get boosters to people, but the overwhelming highest priority is to vaccinate the unvaccinated.”
The prospect of Covid-19 booster shots has become increasingly important as studies suggest vaccines could potentially wane in effectiveness as time goes on, and the U.S.’s booster considerations come after other countries like Israel and some European countries have already started rolling out booster doses to at least some groups. The U.S. approved third shots for immunocompromised groups that received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in August and announced the government was prepared to roll out booster shots to the general public in September pending their approval, with a plan for people to receive third shots eight months after their second doses. The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee voted on Friday not to allow Pfizer booster shots yet for the general public due to a lack of evidence, however, though they did approve them unanimously for vulnerable groups. The panel’s vote only concerned the Pfizer vaccine, as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s data were not yet ready for consideration.