Scientists Question Joe Biden's Push for COVID Vaccine Booster Shots

Scientists have spoken out against the push for vaccine boosters to be rolled out by September 20 following an announcement from President Joe Biden, claiming there is not enough evidence to support such a move

Biden recently vowed to begin boosters from September 20, pending federal authorization. The boosters will be available five months after people finish their primary immunizations, bringing the original timetable forward by three months.

However, a number of medical experts are questioning why such a date has been penciled in given the data on whether boosters are needed is still unclear and that the priority right now should be giving shots to the large swathes of the population who are still currently unvaccinated.

On Monday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a panel that they may recommend a different approach to boosters than the one proposed by Biden depending on further evidence.

The Biden administration has confirmed that the rollout of any booster doses will not go ahead without the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval and a vote by ACIP.

"That doesn't mean you can't get out [of the decision]. I think the public expectation is that boosters are needed now," Dr. Henry Bernstein, a pediatrician at Northwell Health Cohen's Children Medical Center in New York, told ABC News.

"There's a lot more data to be reviewed and work to be done in evaluating whether boosters are needed in various populations."

Biden's announcement for a booster shot following concerns that vaccine protection against COVID may wane after several months, coinciding with the continuing spread of the Delta variant across the country.

Dr. Felipe Lobelo of Emory University, an epidemiologist and associate professor, told the Atlanta Journal Constitution: "We don't really have strong data on when the waning starts; on whether the increased rates of infection and so-called breakthrough infections...are occurring because of this waning effect—or is it because Delta is more transmissible? Or is it because people are changing behaviors?"

Dr. Carlos del Rio, professor of medicine at Emory University, added: "The problem is by focusing on boosters we're distracting from the biggest problem, which is all the unvaccinated people."

Biden's apparent rush to get the vaccine boosters available by September 20 has also reportedly caused havoc within the FDA.

According to Politico, the agency is now frantically trying to find evidence to support claims booster shots are needed, likening the current situation to how President Donald Trump desperately pushed for COVID vaccines to be approved during his time in office.

Two senior officials with the FDA announced they will be stepping down on Tuesday, citing frustrations with the decision-making surrounding the booster shot, according to The New York Times and other media outlets.

Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the FDA's Office of Vaccines Research and Review, will retire in October after 32 years, with her deputy, Dr. Philip Krause, planning to leave the FDA in November.

Paul Offit, a University of Pennsylvania infectious disease expert who sits on FDA's vaccine advisory committee, told Politico that the move to go ahead with a potential third shot was "the administration's booster plan; it wasn't the FDA's booster plan."

He added: "The administration has kind of backed themselves up against the wall a little bit here."

The White House's Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday that the "FDA is the gold standard" and the administration is "grateful for the tireless work of the senior team and the whole staff at FDA" when asked about the resignations.

"And as our medical experts laid out, having reviewed all of the available data, it is in their clinical judgment that it is time to prepare Americans for a booster shot. We announced our approach in order to stay ahead of the virus, give states and pharmacies time to plan, and to be transparent with the American people as to the latest data and expert clinical judgments from the team to give them time to do their own planning."

The White House has been contacted for comment.

joe biden vaccines
Joe Biden delivers remarks on the end of the war in Afghanistan in the State Dining Room at the White House on August 31, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Health experts have questioend why the president has set out a September 20 date for vaccine boosters to be available. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images