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FDA booster decision should allay unrest about need and timing

Plenty of vaccine available for boosters, experts say

CHICAGO --- COVID-19 experts from Northwestern Medicine say the highly anticipated FDA announcement Friday about booster shots will settle questions about booster timing for the general population and people with underlying health conditions.

Confusion about the booster was fueled by strong disagreement about the need for them between scientists at the FDA and President Biden health officials.

If boosters are recommended, people should be assured vaccines are more readily available now than earlier this year, Northwestern experts said. So, there likely will not be difficulty in obtaining them as there were with the initial vaccine doses.  

Northwestern experts are available today to discuss the FDA’s anticipated announcement and tomorrow to weigh in on the FDA decision. Contact marla-paul@northwestern.edu for an interview.

Ramon Lorenzo Redondo

“The current situation is not the same as earlier this year due to the much higher availability of vaccines now,” said Ramon Lorenzo Redondo, a COVID-19 scientist and research assistant professor of medicine in infectious diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Therefore, people should remain calm regardless of the decision. Also, if the booster is approved, it should be given when the time is right. If not, it might be useless. Timing will be important, so if you just received your second dose, you probably shouldn’t get a booster until the recommended time. This will create a spread in the demand for vaccines further reducing the stress on the distribution chains. I think what is important is that the FDA decision is based on the available evidence.” 

Dr. Michelle Prickett

“The data so far clearly demonstrates that boosters are an important addition to the protection of certain vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Michelle Prickett, associate professor of medicine in pulmonary and critical care at Feinberg and Northwestern Medicine director of respiratory care. “This has included people with underlying immunocompromised conditions, such as active cancer, as well as people taking immunosuppressive drugs for solid organ transplants and rheumatologic disease, to name a few. What we have not known is the time frame of recommending boosters to the general population or all people with other underlying health conditions. The FDA announcement will hopefully shed more light on the best timing of boosters to help the general population. This in turn will also support vulnerable members of our communities, as well as those still ineligible to vaccines such as our children under 12 years of age.”