The director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could decide in the coming weeks whether to authorize COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to more Americans in the fall.
Dr. Francis Collins told “Fox News Sunday” that FDA officials are reviewing U.S. COVID-19 cases and vaccines “almost daily,” stipulating that no decision has yet been made.
There have been several studies that have found that the efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna shots, which use mRNA technology, has waned in recent months.
While Collins asserted that vaccinated individuals remain highly protected against the virus, he noted that there are concerns that the vaccines aren’t as effective as previously thought. If that scenario is indeed the case, Collins said it may necessitate a booster shot “beginning first with health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward” with others, such as higher-risk populations such as elderly Americans.
More data about the COVID-19 Delta variant should help the FDA and other health agencies make a decision on booster shots in the “next couple of weeks,” he added.
The FDA hasn’t fully authorized any of the vaccines made by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, or Pfizer. The vaccines have been administered via the agency’s emergency use authorization, although some federal health officials have speculated that the shots will be fully approved in the coming weeks.
Late last week, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel voted to authorize third vaccine doses for immunocompromised individuals.
“I signed CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the use of an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine for people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems after an initial two-dose vaccine series,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
The CDC’s decision affects less than 3 percent of the U.S. population and includes people with HIV, cancer patients, transplant patients, and others.
Amid the agency’s decision, other officials stressed that other individuals shouldn’t get a third shot.
Non-immunocompromised people who are “fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine at this time,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock in a statement on Aug. 12. “The FDA is actively engaged in a science-based, rigorous process with our federal partners to consider whether an additional dose may be needed in the future.”
Neither Collins, COVID-19 adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, nor Walensky has made many public comments regarding individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and have natural immunity, instead saying that COVID-19 vaccines offer superior protection.
A study released last month from Emory University, however, stated that recovered COVID-19 patients “retain broad and effective longer-term immunity to the disease” and “that there are additional unknown factors influencing age-related differences in COVID-19 responses.”