A group of international scientists is cautioning against administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots before it’s absolutely necessary, in part because if people have adverse reactions, it could fuel vaccine hesitancy.
The United States and other countries have announced plans to administer booster doses for high-risk individuals, bucking calls from the World Health Organization to prioritize vaccinating lower-income countries over boosters.
The additional shots are intended to help extend protection against COVID-19, but two top vaccine regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believe more lives could be saved if vaccine supply is used to inoculate unvaccinated populations, instead.
“Although the benefits of primary COVID-19 vaccination clearly outweigh the risks, there could be risks if boosters are widely introduced too soon, or too frequently,” a group of 18 scientists wrote in a paper published in The Lancet on Monday.
The scientists note that there is an opportunity right now to study variant-based boosters before there could be a widespread need for them. But they also argue in their paper that the current Covid-19 vaccine supply could “save more lives” if used in people who are not yet vaccinated than if used as boosters. In early August, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on booster shots until at least the end of September.
“To date, none of these studies has provided credible evidence of substantially declining protection against severe disease, even when there appear to be declines over time in vaccine efficacy against symptomatic disease,” the scientists write in their paper.