During an off-the-record conference call last week with President Joe Biden and top health officials, a group of prominent scientists and doctors advocated for limiting the rollout of COVID-19 booster vaccines to people with a high risk of hospitalization or death, rather than the more sweeping rollout of the booster vaccine currently endorsed by the Biden Administration.
The story: In a September 27 conference call, several experts pushed back on the comprehensive rollout of the COVID-19 booster vaccine currently championed by the Biden Administration, instead recommending a limited rollout that focuses on high-risk individuals.
Earlier in September, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended against providing a booster shot to individuals 16 years and older, limiting its approval to people 65 years or older and those at risk of severe reactions to the virus.
Nonetheless, Biden and top health officials have moved forward with rhetoric expressing optimism that the booster shot will soon be widely available.
Since the recommendation, Biden assured the public that the booster shot will be available “across the board.”
“In the near term, we’re probably going to open this up,” he added.
In detail: The call on September 27 included Biden’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, Senior Policy Advisor for COVID-19 Equity Cameron Webb, and Director of the Centers for Disease Control Rochelle Walensky.
According to Politico, Fauci objected during the call to the experts’ stance that science did not support a wide rollout of the booster shot. He also argued for a rollout that would target the transmission of the virus to the public in general, rather than a rollout focused on preventing severe cases of COVID-19.
“It was very tense,” one Politico source said. “More than anything, it was like Fauci felt he needed to make a point.”
Reports of the contentious conference call are the latest in a sequence of setbacks for the Biden Administration, as they struggle to issue clear and effective communication to the public regarding the appropriate response to COVID-19.
“It undermines credibility not just for [federal health] agencies but for the administration overall,” emphasized Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University.
“Somebody needs a communication lesson,” he added. “Maybe many people do.”
When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Department of Human and Health Services stated, “We are doing all we can to offer Americans the maximum protection afforded by vaccines, including constantly working to increase the number of primary vaccinations as well as ensuring boosters are available to all who are eligible.”
The White House declined Politico’s request for comment.
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