Pfizer on track for US vaccine boosters, Moderna lagging, Anthony Fauci says

While Pfizer-BioNTech has submitted the necessary data on booster shots, Moderna has yet to complete the process. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, NYTIMES) - Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said on Sunday (Sept 5) that officials were likely to soon get the regulatory go-ahead to administer Covid-19 vaccine booster shots made by Pfizer, although Moderna booster could take a little longer.

Asked on CBS' Face the Nation, about President Joe Biden's goal to give booster shots starting Sept 20, Fauci said that "in some respects" that remained the plan.

But he said that while Pfizer-BioNTech has submitted the necessary data on booster shots to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Moderna has yet to complete the process. Fauci said he hopes to give both vaccines when boosters doses roll out, but if Moderna does not complete the process before Sept 20, then Moderna boosters will be given later.

Moderna and the FDA did not immediately return emails seeking comment. In a statement released last Wednesday (Sept 1), Moderna said it had "initiated its submission" of booster data to the FDA.

How - or even whether - to administer boosters has emerged as a thorny issue as Covid-19 continues to kill unvaccinated people around the world.

Last month the Biden administration announced it would start offering boosters to Americans by Sept 20, usurping the process by which the FDA and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention usually decide on such issues, current and former FDA scientists and CDC advisory panel members have told Reuters.

Scientists are still debating how much additional immunity boosters provide and whether all Americans should get another shot, rather than just those at high risk of severe illness.

Speaking on Sunday, Fauci emphasised that both boosters were assumed to be safe, but that the FDA and other officials would study the data to make sure.

"When you're dealing with allowing the American public to receive an intervention, you want to make sure you're absolutely certain," he said.

Meanwhile, the White House chief of staff said on Sunday the Biden administration will only offer Covid-19 booster shots once federal health regulators offer their support, reiterating a pledge from administration officials.

"I want to be absolutely clear," Ron Klain, the chief of staff, said on CNN's "State of the Union" news programme.

"No one's going to get boosters until the FDA says they're approved, until the CDC advisory committee makes a recommendation."

The pledge followed a report Friday by The New York Times that top federal health officials had told the White House to scale back the planned booster campaign, arguing that regulators needed more time to collect and review all the necessary data.

In August, the Biden administration announced a plan to start offering boosters the week of Sept. 20 to adults who had received their second shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least eight months earlier.

In making the announcement, the administration said the plan was contingent on approvals from the Food and Drug Administration and recommendations from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee.

Some health experts have argued that before starting a booster program, the administration should push first to reach more unvaccinated Americans who have been stricken hardest by the highly contagious delta variant in both hospitalizations and deaths.

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