If and when there is clear evidence that immunity is waning, “there will be recommendations made” for a booster shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, and “we will have the supply to provide it to the public,” US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN on Tuesday.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE said earlier that they will ask US and European regulators within weeks to authorize a booster dose due to an increased risk of infection after six months.
“We have to look at data from multiple sources, and not just from the United States but other nations. All of that will go towards the decision on whether or not to recommend a booster or not. I think it’s very possible a booster will be needed, but what we are really looking at proper evidence that immunity is waning, that’s consequential in terms of more breakthrough infections,” said Murthy, vice admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
When asked whether these booster shots will be made available to vulnerable Americans before the general public, he said immunocompromised groups sometimes did need additional help in building immunity.
“We’re looking at that population to determine whether a third of the vaccine may be required. As soon as we see data that compelling, we will make that reccomendation,” he said.
However, some leading vaccine experts have questioned Pfizer’s rationale and said that more data was needed to justify a booster, especially as many countries struggle to administer the initial vaccine doses needed to protect their citizens.
“It’s disappointing that with such a complicated decision they took such a unilateral approach,” Dr. Larry Corey had previously said. He is a virologist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center who is overseeing US-government backed COVID-19 vaccine trials.
The rise of the Delta variant, first detected in India and now the dominant form of new coronavirus infections in many countries, has raised concerns over whether currently available vaccines offer enough protection. Several experts say a booster shot would be warranted if there is a substantial increase in hospitalizations or deaths among vaccinated people.