A group of prominent experts on COVID-19 is pushing President Joe Biden to significantly scale back his plan to provide booster shots for every vaccinated American.
The experts, some of whom advised the president during the transition, told Biden and some of his top medical experts during a September 27 conference call that the data currently available does not justify using booster shots to combat breakthrough COVID infections among the vaccinated, according to Politico. The outside experts argued that the boosters should be restricted to only those at high risk from COVID-19.
Biden was joined on the call along with White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House policy adviser Cameron Webb, and the heads of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As Politico reported:
The Sept. 27 call was originally planned for the week before. The White House abruptly rescheduled it after the CDC’s independent vaccine advisory committee recommended that the Pfizer-BioNTech booster be reserved for high-risk groups, including the elderly.
The rescheduled call was the tensest one to date, according to the three people with information on the talks. Fauci argued that the CDC committee’s stance — that science did not support giving boosters to all adults — was incorrect. And he dismissed suggestions that the administration had to choose between a broad U.S. booster campaign and donating vaccines to countries in need.
The president’s chief medical adviser also told the outside experts that boosters could, and should, be given widely to reduce the spread of the coronavirus rather than only to prevent severe disease or death.
Fauci’s comments reportedly left the independent experts confused as to what the White House wanted to accomplish with the vaccines. “It was very tense,” one person said, according to Politico. “More than anything, it was like Fauci felt he needed to make a point.”
Fauci’s comments on the call echo recent public statements he has made seemingly pushing the vaccine as a way to stop the spread of COVID-19 entirely, not just limit severe cases of the illness.
“It is an assumption that it’s okay to get infected and get mild and moderate disease, as long as you don’t wind up in the hospital and die. I have to be open and honest: I reject that,” Fauci said last week during an appearance at The Atlantic Festival. “I think we should be preventing people from getting sick from COVID even if they don’t wind up in the hospital.”
On Sunday, Fauci claimed that it is “too soon to tell” whether families should gather for Christmas because of the risk of COVID-19. He later walked those comments back, claiming that his words were “misrepresented.”
“It’s just too soon to tell,” Fauci during an appearance on CBS News. “We’ve just got to [be] concentrating on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time.”
After receiving backlash over his Christmas comments, Fauci said on Monday: “I will be spending Christmas with my family. I encourage people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.”