A top adviser to the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine panel is questioning. Whether more Covid booster shots are necessary for healthy, young people.
The evidence for the new version of the vaccine for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Which the FDA approved in August, is “overwhelming” and fails to show that they are much better than the original shots, Dr. Paul Offitt. Apediatrician who is a leading vaccine and infectious disease expert, wrote Wednesday. In the New England Journal of Medicine.
Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Told NBC News that protecting people against Covid infection with current mRNA technology may be a pipe dream. Especially as new coronavirus strains emerge every few months.
The updated boosters from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are probably. Best reserved for people at high risk of serious illness or death from Covid — older adults. People with multiple coexisting conditions and those who are immunocompromised, Offit said.
It may not be practical to ask young, healthy people who are at low risk of serious illness to get a variant-specific vaccine. Followed by a different variant-specific formula months later, he said.
Offitt, who is a member of the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. Wrote in the paper, “I believe we should stop trying to prevent all symptomatic infections in healthy. Young people with vaccines containing mRNA from their strains. Disappeared after a few months.”
The FDA vaccine committee is scheduled to meet on January 26. When a group of outside advisers will decide what the next version of the Covid shots should be.
Offit’s position contradicts the FDA . And Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Covid vaccine guidelines. Which recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older receive an updated vaccine at least two months after their last dose.
In response to the NEJM paper, FDA spokeswoman Abigail Capobianco said. The data Ofit used to support its argument was “selective” and that “we strongly believe that the totality of. The available evidence supports the use of this vaccine in all age groups.”
“Dr. Offit is entitled to his opinion on the effectiveness of the Covid-19 bivalent vaccine used as a booster,” he said.
Why have an omicron booster?
Given last winter’s rise in Omicron variants in the United States, the FDA’s vaccine committee met. In June to recommend newly designed boosters that target certain types of Omicron virus. Offit and another member voted against the vaccine change. The FDA later supported the vaccine panel, approving a new formulation of the booster shots.
The updated vaccine, called bivalent, targets the original coronavirus strain as well as BA.4 and BA.5,. Two omicron subvariants that are now out of circulation in the United States.
At the time, the updated booster shots had not yet been tested in humans. And preliminary data suggested that they did not produce a better immune response to BA.5 than the first iteration of the vaccine.
However, data released in subsequent months by Pfizer and Moderna, as well as a real-world study from the CDC. Showed that the new vaccines provided increased protection against the Omicron subvariants. Although protection against infection was still low. They once provided protection against the original coronavirus strain.
Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Vaccine Development Center at Texas Children’s Hospital. Said the boosters still reduce the risk of covid transmission and serious illness — and thereby lower the risk of prolonged covid.
“People who are talking about why young people need it are missing the point,” he said, referring to the booster. “We don’t vaccinate just to prevent death. We vaccines prevent serious illness and therefore prolonged covid.
It’s unclear whether the new paper will influence other members of the FDA panel or the agency’s decisions about the next version of the vaccine.
Another member of the FDA panel. Ofer Levy agreed that the benefit of boosters may be less for younger people than for older adults but said, “It’s not zero.”
Levy. Director of the Precision Vaccines Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Continues to promote the Covid. Booster for everyone who is eligible.
Relatively few people in the US have Update Booster. As of January 4, about 15% of people over the age of 5 had them, according to the CDC.
A vaccine researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Anna Durbin said the argument for promoting young, healthy people for the elderly and those at higher risk of serious disease is “weak”.