The battle over boosters deepens

Sept. 14, 2021

Disagreement among the nation’s top health care officials over the need for booster shots seems to be mounting higher.

This week, a group of 18 scientists released a report critiquing plans for a widespread rollout of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. Among the scientists cited in the review, which was published in the Lancet, were two former FDA officials — Philip Krause and Marion Gruber — who left the agency last month, reportedly in part because of frustrations over the Biden administration’s push for booster shots.

In the review, the authors argued that the scientific evidence does not currently support widespread booster shots. The group also said that booster shots could increase the risk of side effects, which could in turn increase vaccine hesitancy, and that the current supply of vaccines should be used to target those still unvaccinated around the world. 

The published review is the latest twist in an ongoing battle over boosters between the FDA, CDC and the White House.

Last month, Politico reported that although the CDC and Biden administration had signed a statement endorsing the need for widespread boosters, top CDC officials contradicted the approach a few weeks later by saying that certain high-risk groups should first be prioritized. 

Meanwhile, the Biden administration’s pressure to administer boosters has reportedly increased tensions at the FDA. Earlier this month, the White House announced that it wants to offer booster shots starting Sept. 20. But both the FDA and CDC have asked the administration to scale back that timeline as the agencies scramble to collect and analyze data that would support that plan. 

Overall, health care officials have expressed concerns that even though President Biden said he would let science guide policy-making decisions, the administration may be applying too much pressure and unrealistic expectations on the agencies.

“Science takes time,” a CDC official told Politico.