FDA vaccine adviser Dr Paul Offit says healthy young people don’t need another Covid booster – despite new BA.2.86 variant pushing virus rates up
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 is advising the FDA on a range of shots for infectious diseases, told DailyMail.com that middle-aged and younger Americans who do not have chronic diseases already had strong enough immunity from previous Covid vaccines and infections to avoid severe illness this winter prevent .
His recommendation comes as the FDA prepares to approve new updated Covid boosters, made by Pfizer and Moderna, designed to target new variants.
The Biden administration is expected to sign off on a new nationwide rollout and encourage every American to accept it, despite other countries such as Britain saying the vaccines are only needed for adults over 65.
Dr. Offit told DailyMail.com: ‘I think we are best served by targeting these booster doses to those most at risk of severe illness (i.e. hospitalisation).
‘In particular, those over the age of 75, those who have health conditions that put them at greatest risk for serious illness (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 recognized vaccine expert, said healthy young people did not need the updated Covid booster this autumn
He added: ‘Encouraging otherwise healthy young people is a low-risk, low-reward strategy. Again, with the understanding that the goal of the vaccine is to prevent serious disease.”
The federal government will not cover the cost of updated Covid booster vaccines this fall.
But most Americans will still be able to get the vaccines for free through their health insurance.
For the 28 million Americans without 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 gain free access to Covid vaccines and treatments until 2024.
Pfizer and Moderna say their vaccines cost between $110 and $130 per dose.
Dr. Offit, who works at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of 14 scientists on the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) – which is charged with determining whether vaccines are safe and effective.
This committee voted against Pfizer vaccine boosters for all Americans at the end of 2021, saying they should only be offered to those over 65.
A CDC panel followed suit — but was later overruled by the agency’s director, who said the vaccine should be offered to all adults who work in high-risk settings, such as those who work in hospitals or nursing homes.
The above shows how adoption languished after last year’s booster rollout, with less than 17 percent of eligible adults signing up
The committee was not asked for its opinion this year on which Americans should be offered the Covid booster.
This recommendation will instead come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which meets on September 12.
CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen will then sign the recommendation to initiate the updated rollout of the booster vaccine.
It’s not clear 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 get the shot.
This year’s updated Covid booster vaccine is designed to target the XBB.1.5 or ‘Kraken’ Covid variant – which was dominant in the US this summer.
However, initial tests show the shot can also neutralize the BA.2.86 Covid variant, or ‘Pirola’, which is driving up Covid rates around the world.
There are also signs it will work against the EG.5 or ‘Eris’ variant of Covid, the current dominant strain in the US, and responsible for the recent spike in infections.
Dr. Offit has been an outspoken critic of the US blanket approach to vaccinating everyone against Covid.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal published last September, he warned that the CDC was “overselling” Covid vaccines by offering them to all Americans.
He wrote, “As the CDC launches its fall campaign for booster doses, it would be wise to focus on those at risk rather than the young and healthy.”
In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer last November, he also said healthy adults under 75 did not need to get the Covid vaccines.
Last year, just 17 percent of American adults eligible for the bivalent booster shot signed up.
Among people over 65, who benefit most from the vaccinations, uptake fell to 43 percent.
The new vaccines come after the Biden administration unveiled plans to spend another $1.4 billion on Covid medicines and vaccinations 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 charged with funding health initiatives – announced the move on Tuesday as part of its “Project NextGen.”
Data shows Covid hospitalizations are increasing in the US, with around 17,400 people admitted to hospitals in the week ending August 26 – up from around 15,000 compared to the previous seven-day period.
But this is also still well below the levels reported earlier this year, when there were around 44,000 admissions per week in January.