Speed Reads

booster debate

The arguments for and against rolling out COVID-19 boosters this month

There seems to be no consensus on how and when the United States should go about delivering COVID-19 booster shots to Americans. 

On Friday, it was reported that top officials are urging the White House to scale back its plans to make everyone eligible starting Sept. 20. Instead, there's a chance only Pfizer recipients — and even then just a portion — will get their extra doses by that date because there isn't enough data on the Moderna vaccine — which may have more staying power than Pfizer's — and the Johnson & Johnson shot. 

Count the nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb among the proponents of boosters, with the hope that a third dose (for Pfizer and Moderna) might be the cap the regimen needs. As Gottlieb explained during a CNBC appearance on Friday, it's possible that the first two doses were administered so closely together that they basically served as two "primes," rather than an initial shot and a booster. The third one, he said, could very well prove more durable, so he's not yet predicting the need for an annual booster.

Others still think it's better to hold off for now. The Atlantic's Katherine Wu writes that most of the experts she's spoken to told her "the immunological argument for a COVID-19 booster this early is shaky at best," which is not necessarily a bad thing. That's because the vaccines available are still holding up well, especially against severe illness and death, and Wu clarifies that breakthrough symptomatic infections, while increasing, are still uncommon.

Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told Wu that people's immune systems should remember the coronavirus, including the Delta variant, for some time. Therefore, boosters may not make that much of a difference, at least until there's evidence that they lead to the long-term, durable antibody production Gottlieb mentioned as opposed to a "boom-and-bust cycle." Read more at The Atlantic.