The former head of the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday said people might not need COVID-19 booster shots on a recurring basis, citing the ability’s body to build a long-lasting immune response after a jumpstart from vaccines.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb weighed in amid a debate about whether people who were vaccinated early will need a third shot, even as the U.S. and other countries push to get initial doses into their populations.
“It’s not clear that we’re going to need boosters forever,” he told CNBC. “It could be the case that after you give a third dose to people they get a much more durable response and it’s a multi-year response and you’re not boosting constantly. We just don’t know yet.”
Israel started giving a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to the medically vulnerable after data suggested people might see declining protection six months after their second dose — especially among the old and frail.
There is also concern the delta variant can overwhelm antibodies, forcing the body to rely on memory B cells and T cells to kick in and fight the disease.
Dr. Gottlieb said the decision around boosters will ultimately be up to the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I do think we end up with some complement of the population getting boosted,” he said.
Pfizer recently said it will seek emergency approval in August of a third dose, citing data that showed it can bolster the immune response.
The statement appeared to catch U.S. officials off-guard. They’re trying to get more people vaccinated for the first time, and talk of boosters might give the impression the shots aren’t very effective.
Federal officials said there is no evidence that anyone needs to go get a booster at this time, as they pore over immunity data on a rolling basis.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said the chief of Pfizer called him to apologize for catching the government off-guard with its statement on boosters.