Washington, Sep 17 (EFE).- The panel of independent experts who advise the United States government on vaccines voted unanimously Friday to recommend approval of Covid-19 booster shots for people over 65 and those at heightened risk of becoming seriously ill after rejecting the idea of a third dose for all adults.
By a margin of 16-2, the members of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee opposed the application from Pfizer to authorize the administration of a third dose six months after the second dose.
President Joe Biden had announced that boosters would be made available to the general public beginning next Monday, responding to a surge of Covid-19 cases due to the Delta variant and data indicating that the effectiveness of the vaccines declines over time.
One committee member, Dr. Paul Offit, suggested during Friday’s discussion that the FDA was being pressed to act precipitately in order to meet the White House target.
“This is a big decision, and I don’t understand why it has to be rushed. I don’t understand why we can’t spend more time looking at data,” Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said.
Dr. Michael Kurilla, an infectious disease specialist with the National Institutes of Health, said it remained “unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease.”
The FDA is not bound by the committee’s recommendations and the final decision on boosters will be made next week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Nearly 64 percent of US residents 12 and up have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccine, yet new cases are averaging around 150,000 a day while the death toll grows by some 1,500 every 24 hours.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has argued against the widespread administration of vaccine boosters when the vast majority of people in poor nations have yet to receive their first dose.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month.
The US leads the world in Covid-19 fatalities with 671,000 and this week saw the installation in the center of official Washington of more than 600,000 white flags to symbolize those deaths.
“In America: Remember,” the creation of artist Suzanne Brennan, covers 20 acres (10 hectares) of the National Mall, an expanse the extends from the US Capitol to the Washington Monument.
Despite Friday’s rain, the installation attracted “more people than we expected,” a volunteer told Efe.
Janette Zapata, 55, came all the way from Florida with her husband and son to see the installation and attach to one of the flags a dedication to her mother, who died of coronavirus.
“My mother caught Covid in a nursing home and she got infected when she was on the point of receiving the vaccine,” Zapata told Efe.
The flags will remain on the Mall until Oct. 17. EFE afs-ssa/dr