Most Americans don’t need another Covid booster shot, according to one of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) top vaccine advisers.
Dr. Paul Offit, who advises the FDA on a range of infectious disease vaccines, told DailyMail.com that middle-aged and younger Americans who do not have chronic illnesses already have sufficiently strong immunity thanks to previous Covid vaccines and infections to prevent serious illness this winter. .
His recommendation comes as the FDA prepares to approve new, updated Covid boosters made by Pfizer and Moderna and designed to target new variants.
The Biden administration is expected to approve another nationwide rollout, encouraging all Americans to take it, despite other countries, like the United Kingdom, saying vaccines are only needed for adults over 65 years old.
Dr Offit told DailyMail.com: “I think we are best served by targeting these booster doses to those who are most at risk of severe disease (i.e. hospitalization).
“Specifically, people over the age of 75, those who have health conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illnesses (such as obesity, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease and diabetes, among others) (and) those who are immune compromised and those who are pregnant.
Dr. Paul Offit, an internationally renowned vaccine expert, said healthy young people do not need to receive the updated Covid booster this fall.
He added: “Boosting healthy young people is a low-risk, low-reward strategy. Again, knowing that the goal of the vaccine is to prevent serious illness.
The federal government will not cover the cost of updated Covid booster vaccines this fall.
But most Americans will still be able to get vaccinated for free through their health insurance.
For the 28 million Americans who lack health insurance, the federal government will cover the cost of their vaccinations through its $1.1 billion “Bridge Access” assistance program – which will help people without insurance to have free access to vaccines and treatments against Covid until 2024.
Pfizer and Moderna say their vaccines cost between $110 and $130 per dose.
Dr. Offit, based at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of 14 scientists on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), charged with determining whether vaccines are safe and effective.
That committee voted against Pfizer vaccine boosters for all Americans in late 2021, saying they should only be offered to those over 65.
A CDC panel followed its lead, but was then overruled by the agency’s director, who said the vaccine should be offered to all adults working in high-risk environments, such as those working in hospitals or retirement homes.
The above shows how adoption of last year’s booster program stagnated, with fewer than 17% of eligible adults coming forward.
This year, the committee was not asked for its opinion on where Americans should be offered the Covid booster.
This recommendation will instead come from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will meet on September 12.
CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen will then approve the recommendation to begin the updated booster vaccine rollout.
It’s unclear exactly what the CDC will recommend, but late last month President Joe Biden said it was “likely” that all Americans over the age of five would be offered the vaccine.
The updated Covid booster vaccine this year is designed to target the XBB.1.5, or “Kraken,” variant of Covid – which was dominant in the US this summer.
Initial tests, however, show that the shot can also neutralize the BA.2.86 Covid variant, or “Pirola”.
There are also signs that it will work against the Covid variant EG.5, or “Eris”, which is the current dominant strain.
Younger people who get vaccinated will have a very low risk of side effects like myocarditis or heart inflammation.
Dr. Offit has been an outspoken critic of the United States’ comprehensive approach to vaccinating everyone against Covid.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal published in September last year, he warned that the CDC was “overselling” Covid vaccines by offering them to all Americans.
He wrote: “As the CDC launches its fall recall campaign, it would be wise to focus on those at risk rather than the young and healthy.
In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer in November last year, he also said that healthy adults under the age of 75 do not need to get the Covid vaccine.
Critics have already accused the CDC’s general vaccination policy of being “counterintuitive” because it did not emphasize the small benefit the vaccine provided to young people.
The agency said it also lowered the rate of essential childhood immunizations, which protect against deadly childhood diseases including polio and measles.
Last year, just 17 percent of American adults eligible for the bivalent booster came forward.
Among those over 65, who stand to gain the most from the shots, participation rate stagnates at 43 percent.
The new vaccines come after the Biden administration revealed plans to spend an additional $1.4 billion on Covid medications and vaccines for all Americans – despite declaring the pandemic over in May.
Officials said the funding – which will be awarded in the form of grants – will be used to develop “a new generation of tools and technologies to protect against COVID-19 for years to come.”
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – the branch of government responsible for funding health initiatives – announced the move Tuesday as part of its “NextGen Project.”
Data shows Covid hospitalizations in the US are increasing, with around 17,400 people admitted to hospital in the week ending August 26 – an increase of around 15,000 from the seven-day period former.
But this figure also remains well below levels reported earlier this year, when there were around 44,000 admissions per week in January.