The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said an annual COVID-19 booster shot isn’t anticipated, suggesting that a third dose may adequately strengthen the long-term protection of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
When asked about the need for annual booster doses, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “I don’t want to say never, but we are not necessarily anticipating that you will need this annually.”
“It does look like after this third dose, you get a really robust response, and so we will continue to follow the science both on the vaccine side but also on the virus side,” she said during a CBS News interview on Aug. 19.
On Aug. 18, Walensky and other federal health agency chiefs said during a joint news conference that they will recommend boosters to individuals eight months after receiving their second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose, starting Sept. 20. The CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) haven’t authorized the doses yet.
During the CBS interview, Walensky said that “several studies” showed the vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna showed “waning effectiveness” against the Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We’ve also been in collaboration and discussions with our international colleagues and they are starting to see … presentation of worsening infection in the context of their breakthroughs,” she said.
Walensky was referring to three different studies published on Aug. 18 on the CDC website, including one from the CDC’s COVID-19 Response Team and the Vermont-based Lantana Consulting Group that found the mRNA vaccines’ efficacy against infection plummeted to around 53 percent in July, falling by about 22 percent from May.
Inside the United States, some experts questioned the CDC’s data.
“The message I got from reading all three [studies] was that there may be some reduction in infection protection with Delta in nursing homes, but no data about waning protection from severe disease or hospitalization,” Dr. Walid Gellad, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine, wrote on Twitter.
The recent U.S. proposals to provide booster shots now have been flagged by some health experts as unethical and premature. The World Health Organization (WHO) went on the offensive this week, saying that wealthier nations such as the United States should prioritize donating vaccines to poorer nations.
Other critics, such as former President Donald Trump, accused the CDC and FDA of promoting boosters to bolster profits for pharmaceutical companies.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted that the FDA and CDC are misleading the public.
“Just last month, CDC & FDA said no booster needed. At the time, they worried that the truth about long term vaccine efficacy would cause ‘vaccine hesitancy,'” the Kentucky Republican wrote. “They ignored widely available data and drug manufacturers, because both indicated efficacy had dropped significantly.”
Earlier this year, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that it’s likely that people will have to receive a vaccine booster dose every 12 months, similar to the annual flu shot. His comments drew pushback from White House officials at the time.
President Joe Biden in an ABC News interview aired on Aug. 19 said that both he and First Lady Jill Biden will get booster shots.
“It’s something that I think, you know, because we got our shots all the way back in, I think, December, so it’s past time,” Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “Yes, we will get the booster shots.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s name. The Epoch Times regrets the error.