Sep 17, 2021 - Health

Key FDA committee takes on the big booster question

Illustration of a group of doctors examining a giant syringe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A key FDA advisory committee is meeting today to discuss Pfizer's proposal for a COVID vaccine booster — but it will set the stage for the entire booster debate.

The big question: Not only whether experts believe there’s enough evidence to support boosters, but also whether they believe additional shots should be made available for everyone or limited to older Americans and the immunocompromised.

Driving the news: Pfizer has proposed a booster dose about six months after the second shot, for people 16 and older. The FDA committee will consider whether the company's data support that approach.

What they're saying: "It will be a real clear signal whether there's a rebuke of the White House's stated approach from last month, or whether it will move forward broadly in line with what they outlined back in August," Jason Schwartz, associate professor in the department of health policy and management at the Yale School of Public Health, told Axios.

What to watch: Data published this week out of Israel offered a "compelling" case for a booster as vaccines' efficacy wanes, said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College.

  • However, two of the FDA’s top vaccine reviewers who announced plans to leave the agency signed onto a paper published in The Lancet this week that said booster doses are not necessary for the general public right now.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state that the Biden administration has said it wants to begin offering boosters to the general public the week of Sept. 20., not Monday as previously stated.

Go deeper