Following President Joe Biden’s plans to issue “booster” shots of the COVID-19 vaccine to those who have already received two doses of the vaccination, a group of prominent experts is now pushing for Biden to significantly scale back the plan.
The experts include a number of scientists who advised the president during the transition from the Trump administration. During a September 27 conference call, the experts told Biden and the administration’s own medical experts that the currently available data do not justify the use of booster shots to combat breakthrough infections among the vaccinated.
Politico reports that the outside experts called for the booster shots to be restricted to those at high risk from COVID-19. Biden reportedly participated in the call alongside White House chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the heads of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Sept. 27 call was originally planned for the week before. The White House abruptly rescheduled it after the CDC’s independent vaccine advisory committee recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech booster be reserved for high-risk groups, including the elderly.
The rescheduled call was the tensest one to date, according to the three people with information on the talks. Fauci argued that the CDC committee’s stance — that science did not support giving boosters to all adults — was incorrect. And he dismissed suggestions that the administration had to choose between a broad U.S. booster campaign and donating vaccines to countries in need.
The president’s chief medical adviser also told the outside experts that boosters could, and should, be given widely to reduce the spread of the coronavirus rather than only to prevent severe disease or death.
According to the Politico report, Fauci’s remarks left the independent experts confused as to what the Biden administration intended to accomplish with the vaccines.
“It was very tense,” one of the participants reportedly said of the conference call. “More than anything, it was like Fauci felt like he needed to make a point.”
Fauci’s remarks at the meeting were unchanged from public remarks he has made seemingly pushing the vaccine as a means to stop the spread of the disease entirely, and not simply limit severe cases.
“It is an assumption that it’s okay to get infected and get mild and moderate disease, as long as you don’t wind up in the hospital and die. I have to be open and honest: I reject that,” said Fauci in an appearance at the Atlantic Festival. “I think we should be preventing people from getting sick from COVID even if they don’t wind up in the hospital.”