A group of leading U.S. and international scientists, including those from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization, has contended that coronavirus vaccine booster shots are not needed currently for the general public, according to the peer-reviewed journal The Lancet.
In settling on their conclusion, the experts noted that vaccine effectiveness against the virus likely wanes over time but protection against severe disease could persist.
“Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population, in which efficacy against severe disease remains high,” the scientists wrote.
“The ability of vaccines that present the antigens of earlier phases of the pandemic (rather than variant-specific antigens) to elicit humoral immune responses against currently circulating variants indicates that these variants have not yet evolved to the point at which they are likely to escape the memory immune responses induced by those vaccines. Even without any changes in vaccine efficacy, increasing success in delivering vaccines to large populations will inevitably lead to increasing numbers of breakthrough cases, especially if vaccination leads to behavioral changes in vaccinees,” they continued.
The experts, however, acknowledged that booster shots may eventually be needed for the general public if overall immunity wanes even further. In addition, the potential emergence of a new and more deadly variant could be a cause for concern.
The scientists also pointed out that there could be a higher possibility of seeing more concerning side effects like myocarditis, a rare heart inflammation condition. “If unnecessary boosting causes significant adverse reactions, there could be implications for vaccine acceptance that go beyond COVID-19 vaccines,” they wrote.
Meanwhile, in an effort to curb the quickly rising cases due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, President Joe Biden’s administration has announced that there are enough coronavirus booster shots available to start administering by the original September 20 projection. The details, however, surrounding who is eligible to receive them and exactly when are still pending authorization by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Currently, more than 53 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while about 63 percent have had at least one shot, according to data compiled by the CDC.
Calls for Moratorium
The WHO, however, has once again extended its call for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of the year, as it wants “every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population,” according to the agency’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The latest estimates indicate that more than five billion vaccine doses have been administered globally but 80 percent of them have been given to citizens of higher-income countries, the WHO noted.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.