Booster shots for people who have gotten a COVID-19 vaccine may be needed, the U.S. surgeon general said Tuesday after meeting with Pfizer officials.
“It’s very possible a booster will be needed,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“But what we’re really looking for is clear evidence that immunity is waning, and that that’s consequential in terms of more breakthrough infections. If and when we see that, I can tell you that there will be recommendations that are made. And if boosters are required, we will have the supply to provide it to the public,” he added.
Breakthrough infections is a term referring to infections among those who are fully vaccinated against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19.
Experts and U.S. officials say the three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the country protect against contraction of the virus as well as severe COVID-19 but Pfizer claimed last week that antibodies against the virus will likely wane after six months.
The company cited data from a study conducted in Israel, where officials on Monday began offering a third dose of Pfizer’s jab to people with compromised immune systems.
Pfizer’s shot already comes in two doses, given about three weeks apart.
“Initial data from the study demonstrate that a booster dose given 6 months after the second dose has a consistent tolerability profile while eliciting high neutralization titers against the wild type and the Beta variant, which are 5 to 10 times higher than after two primary doses,” Pfizer and its partner, Bio NTech, said in a recent statement.
The data in question is only one piece of what U.S. regulators will examine when making the decision on whether or not to recommend boosters, Murthy said. That includes laboratory data, other clinical trial data, and real-world information. The situation in America could end up the same as the situation in Israel, where only those with compromised immune systems are advised to get a third jab.
“We don’t have a clear timeline yet, because it’s driven in part by the data. We are constantly looking at the data. And as soon as the signal pops that tells us that there is a decrease in immunity, then at that point, we’ll go forth and make the recommendation. But it’s it’s hard to predict because it’s really driven by what the data tells us,” Murthy said.
Pfizer officials met with Biden administration officials on Monday to go over the company’s case for a booster.
“It was a courteous meeting where we exchanged information. It certainly was not anything even approximating a decisional meeting at all,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”
Fauci said officials know the vaccines are “highly, highly effective in protecting you, and quite safe.”
“The real question that is being examined right now is, what is the durability of that protection, does it wane off, and if so, how soon,” he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration in a joint statement last week said fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot at present.
But the agencies also said that they “are prepared for booster doses if and when the science demonstrates that they are needed.”
“We continue to review any new data as it becomes available and will keep the public informed,” the statement said.
Many experts reacted negatively to the push for a booster shot, saying the data do not show the need for one.
“At this point I see no evidence to support recommending them,” Dr. Carlos del Rio, professor at Emory University School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Disease, said in a tweet.
“The argument for a booster right now, I don’t find compelling,” Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told Reuters.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that if government scientists conclude that booster shots should be encouraged, “they will provide that information publicly and it would be based on a large range of data and information.”