Boosters for the vulnerable: FAQs following the FDA advisory meeting

This past Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s vaccine advisory committee voted to recommend booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for all Americans over age 65 and those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, due to their health conditions and/or work environments. This was a notable recommendation because it went against the FDA’s ask: booster shots for everyone over the age of 16. Let’s walk through the data behind this decision.

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U.S. moves to approve booster shots despite minimal evidence

This week, the federal government announced that the U.S. intends to provide third vaccine doses to all Americans who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. This booster shot distribution will start in September, with adults becoming eligible once they hit eight months after their second shot. Many epidemiologists, vaccine experts, global health experts, and other scientists have criticized the decision.

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The case for a moratorium on booster shots

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for wealthy nations to stop giving out booster shots in a push towards global vaccine equity. These nations should stall any booster shots until at least September, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference on Wednesday.

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Vaccine requirements are the next big strategy

After vaccine incentives largely failed to drive up vaccination numbers, government agencies and corporations alike are now opting for requirements. Hundreds of thousands of Americans learned this week that, in order to keep their jobs, they need to get their shots—or go through a more arduous process like weekly COVID-19 testing.

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Breakthrough case reporting: Once again, outside researchers do the CDC’s job

Now, Delta is causing the vast majority of cases—and the CDC still isn’t reporting on non-severe breakthroughs. As a result, entities outside the federal government are once again compiling data from states in order to fill in gaps left by the national public health agency. On Friday, both Bloomberg and NBC published breakthrough case analyses.

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Unpacking Delta numbers from this week’s headlines

It’s no surprise that Delta (B.1.617.2) is bad news. From the moment it was identified in India, this variant has been linked to rapid transmission and rapid case rises, even in areas where the vaccination rates are high. This week, however, the CDC’s changed mask guidance—combined with new reports on breakthrough cases associated with Delta—has triggered widespread conversation about precisely how much damage this variant can do.

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