Local health departments in the US are preparing to roll out COVID-19 vaccine boosters next week, but they still don’t know if they will be able to distribute the injections.
The White House announced last month that booster shots would become available to Americans beginning September 20, due to data indicating declining efficacy of the first shots.
However, the announcement was awaiting regulatory approval, and it appears the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory committee is assessing the safety and effectiveness of the third shots by its intended rollout date.
This has left local health officials in the dark, who want to be prepared in case the shots get approval but aren’t sure if they’ll go up in arms from Monday.
COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are set to roll out as early as Monday, but they are still awaiting regulatory approval. This has led many local health departments to prepare for the distribution of vaccines, which they are unsure if this will happen. Pictured: A man gets a vaccine against COVID-19 in Carson, California in September
“We don’t want to be unprepared,” said Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive officer of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. CNN.
The plan drawn up by federal officials in August was to offer third vaccine shots to anyone who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna shots — the two most commonly used in the U.S.
Americans would be eligible for the third injection eight months after receiving their second.
Those plans have since gone awry, with regulators notifying White House officials that they may not be able to approve the vaccine booster before Sept. 20.
Many have also questioned the necessity of the third vaccinations.
Earlier this week, 18 FDA officials wrote a report against the rollout of boosters, saying current science does not support the need for more shots.
Other scientists and health experts have also spoken out against vaccine boosters.
They claim that despite an increase in breakthrough cases, because the vaccine is still effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, no injections are needed at this time.
With the unrest at the federal level, local health officials, who have little to nothing to say, aren’t sure where to turn for advice or clarity.
Counties should be prepared to take the shots once they’re approved, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a clear target date for approval in September 20 that’s not going ahead.
“Nobody gets boosters until the FDA says they’re approved, until the CDC advisory committee makes a recommendation. What we do want to do is be ready as soon as that comes,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain told CNN earlier this month.
“We will wait one hundred percent for approval from the FDA, we will wait for approval from the CDC.”
Once approval takes place, more than five million Americans will suddenly become eligible for the next shot of the vaccine.
Health officials are working to ensure they are able to handle a potential surge in vaccine demand.
“We’ve heard from local health departments, with no confirmed information coming their way, they’re starting to assess who’s going to have the capacity on site to provide boosters, who’s going to stay as a vaccine supplier and who’s pulling out — so we can have a have a better understanding of how the community will be served and by whom,” Freeman told CNN.
“There’s just a lot of confusion about this.”
The FDA’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biologics will meet Friday, two days before Sept. 20, to discuss the approval of boosters for the Pfizer injection.
Meanwhile, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices will meet on Sept. 22 and 23, two days after the target date.
Currently, 63.5 percent of the population has received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 54 percent of people are fully vaccinated, data from the CDC shows.
Anyone over the age of 12 is eligible for the first two injections of the vaccine.
About 600,000 Americans are currently vaccinated every day, down from the record of more than 3.5 million in early April.