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The Biden administration is scrapping plans to allow more young people to receive boosters for Covid-19 this summer. Instead, officials are planning to expedite the availability of the next generation of boosters in the fall, three government officials confirmed to NPR.
The new strategy follows a debate within the administration about trying to strike a balance between protecting people this summer and keeping people safe next winter, when the country is likely to be hit by another wave, according to two officials familiar with the matter. Was raised.
Some officials wanted to launch a new booster campaign this summer to encourage more people to get boosted and boost more boosters to protect them against the highly contagious BA.5 variant that will be on the rise this summer. slow to protect
But others were concerned it would interfere with a booster campaign in the fall, which will hopefully be a superior booster specifically targeting BA.5.
One concern was that giving two boosters close together could increase the risk of a rare inflammation of the heart called myocarditis. Another concern was that moving them closer together could dilute the protection of the second amplifier.
There was also concern that two booster campaigns too close together would increase vaccine fatigue and make it harder to convince people to get the vaccine.
The problem that the Food and Drug Administration is facing is that many people’s immunity has been destroyed by vaccination or infection. At the same time, the most contagious version of the virus yet to emerge – the Omicron BA.5 subvariant – makes people even more vulnerable.
So as Covid starts to become more serious than the common cold or flu again, most people under 50 will not be eligible for a fourth vaccine – second boosters – to protect themselves.
In response, the FDA considered opening eligibility for second boosters to all adults. But allowing more people to be boosted with the original vaccine now could interfere with plans to boost them with updated, hopefully more protective vaccines in the fall to reduce winter wave losses.
Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech were already trying to meet the FDA’s request to have new, “bivalent” boosters ready by October or November that would target both the original strain of the virus and the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subtypes. target
But according to a federal official familiar with the situation, who was not authorized to speak publicly, the FDA received assurances from the companies that they could deliver the new boosters even earlier — in September. The hope is that the new boosters will be available to people 12 and up in early September, followed by children.
The prospect of this change sparked mixed reactions earlier this week.
Some think this is the smartest strategy. They say the three vaccines still protect most younger, otherwise healthy people from serious illness. According to some experts, boosting people again now, and then soon again in the fall, could confuse people and potentially reduce their willingness to receive any boosters.
“I think it builds confidence.” Dr. Monica Gandhiprofessor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote in an email to NPR. We can’t give a booster every now and then in 1.5 months or two months – that would reduce trust.
According to some experts, taking two photos too close to each other can have the opposite effect from a health perspective.
“I think it’s the right call.” Dr. Celine Gandersaid a senior member of the Kaiser Family Foundation during an interview with NPR. “If you get a booster now with the original formulation of the vaccine, it may actually backfire. It may prevent the second booster dose given this fall from developing an immune response to that booster.”
But others aren’t so sure. New vaccines may not be significantly better, they say.
“People shouldn’t think of them as some kind of magic bullet that gives them super strong protection,” he says. Dr. John Moore, immunologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. “These are not magic bullet game changers because they are not much better than existing vaccine boosters.”
It is also unclear whether the new boosters can be ready by September. And who knows if BA.5 will even be the main virus by fall and winter?
“I don’t see any benefit in waiting for a BA.5-specific booster, as the BA.5 may be in the rear-view mirror and passed us by the time it’s available,” he says. Dr. Peter HotzDean of the Baylor School of Medicine, National School of Tropical Medicine.
Some say that people under 50 should at least now have the option to protect themselves, especially given that BA.5 is now up.
“You’re talking about knowing hundreds of millions of people who are at higher risk than they should be for months,” he says. Dr. Robert WatcherChair of the Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.
And that means potentially millions of preventable infections, certainly thousands of preventable hospitalizations, and possibly hundreds of preventable deaths.”