March 27, 2022
According to The Guardian.
“We are far behind the eight ball,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, told the outlet.
Many Americans still have not received a booster, and about half of those who are eligible have yet to receive one. The deployment of the first round of boosters “just fell off the cliff,” Topol said.
The Biden administration is also struggling to get funding from Congress to pay for ongoing coronavirus initiatives. Earlier this month, a $15 billion funding package for tests, treatments and vaccines was scrapped from a major spending bill pending before Congress. Although health officials spoke to lawmakers on Wednesday about the need for COVID-19 funding, Republicans said equal cuts needed to be made elsewhere, according to Politico.
Currently, there are sufficient funds to administer a fourth dose of the vaccine to immunocompromised people, who are already eligible for another vaccine, and to the elderly, the White House said on Wednesday. However, a larger booster campaign would not have an adequate supply of vaccines.
“We’re basically out of money for pandemic-related expenses, which is terrifying because we don’t know what’s in store for us,” said Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois. The Guardian.
The lack of funding could affect the deployment of the initial series of vaccines in the future, as well as research on updated vaccines and treatments.
“Maybe we’ll see a new variant that escaped all of that, and we need a new vaccine,” Wallace said. “That’s going to be a problem.”
The Biden administration plans to offer a second booster of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for those 50 and older, which the FDA could clear as soon as this week. In mid-March, Pfizer asked the FDA to approve a second round of boosters for ages 65 and older, and Moderna requested a second booster for ages 18 and older.
About 45% of eligible Americans received a booster shot, according to the latest CDC data, which rises to 67% for those 65 and older. When the boosters were first approved, they were limited to immunocompromised people and the elderly, but they were open to ages 12 and up.
The FDA’s independent advisory committee will meet on April 6 to discuss recall authorization policies for the future, particularly in the case of new variants. The group did not plan to vote, The Guardian reported, but will focus on a framework for boosters.
With another potential wave on the horizon due to the contagious BA.2 variant, Topol said vaccination campaigns should become a priority. Vaccines can take weeks to become fully effective, which means people should get their next shots now.
“It’s good that there is a lull in the circulation of the virus – it’s wonderful,” he said. “Now is the time to protect yourself for the next wave, of which there will be one or two or more.”