Pfizer board member and former Food and Drug Administration head Scott Gottlieb said federal health officials’ messaging on COVID-19 booster doses is generally unclear.
The “confusing messaging” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding COVID-19 booster shots “may end up being one of the biggest missed opportunities in this pandemic,” Gottlieb told CBS on Sunday.
“We now see very clear evidence of declining vaccine effectiveness over time. There’s different reasons why that may be the case, but the trend is unmistakable. And this has been apparent since the end of the summer, now it’s very clear,” Gottlieb added, arguing that Americans who are eligible should get a booster.
Gottlieb, like other current and former health officials, has not publicly elaborated on a timeline for vaccine booster doses. Some countries like Israel have required booster shots six months after the second vaccine dose in order for a person to be classified “fully vaccinated” and keeping their vaccine passports from expiring.
A CDC’s advisory panel in September announced it would recommend a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and older, nursing homes, and individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 who have underlying health problems.
However, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky—who admitted to the Wall Street Journal that she is “really struggling” with her COVID-19 vaccine communication to the public—went against the panel’s recommendation one day later and authorized booster doses for people who have potentially high-exposure risk occupations. The CDC panel voted that recommendation down.
“This may be a very big missed opportunity to try to get ahead of this Delta wave,” Gottlieb said Sunday. “If you go out and start vaccinating someone right now for the first time, it might take five or six weeks for them to get full immunity in many parts of the country. This delta wave will be over in five or six weeks, so we need to do what we can right now,” he added.
On Sunday, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis similarly expressed frustration by the CDC’s and FDA’s messaging about boosters.
“I’ve been very frustrated with the convoluted messaging out of the CDC and the FDA,” he told CBS. On Thursday he signed an executive order allowing boosters for all adults in the state.
Last week, the CDC confirmed that it has no record of people who are naturally immune transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19, triggering concerns from public health experts about a possible lack of transparency and how little data is being released by the agency.
The agency was asked during the fall by a lawyer on behalf of the Informed Consent Action Network for documents “reflecting any documented case of an individual who: (1) never received a COVID-19 vaccine; (2) was infected with COVID-19 once, recovered, and then later became infected again; and (3) transmitted SARS-CoV-2 to another person when reinfected.”