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Booster review delayed by CDC as debate swirls over third shot

A pharmacist prepares to administer a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a customer at a pharmacy in Livonia, Michigan, U.S., on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.Emily Elconin/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pushed back by one week a meeting by a group of outside advisers who were set to review Covid booster shots as debate swells about the need for a third dose.

The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices, originally scheduled to meet and possibly make a recommendation about the need for boosters on Aug. 24, is now set to convene the following week. The delay was posted on the CDC website and confirmed by multiple committee members. The Biden administration announced on Wednesday that it plans to allow most fully vaccinated adults to get a third shot of vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. eight months after their second dose, starting Sept. 20.


The plan is surrounded by controversy as the medical community remains divided about whether the data support a need for boosters and the World Health Organization has called for richer countries to hold off on distributing third doses until less-vaccinated countries catch up.

Now, with a month until the proposed launch date, the Biden administration still needs the CDC’s recommendation and approval from the Food and Drug Administration to distribute boosters.

“The data are coming in rapidly, and we want to make sure we follow our process for review and to ensure we can have a robust deliberation at the next open meeting,” Grace Lee, chair of the committee, wrote in an email. She said she expects that meeting to happen “soon.”

Typically the FDA and CDC would give their thumbs-up before the White House would consider announcing such a plan, and the administration’s decision to push forward without such approval has raised concerns among public health officials. Before the ACIP meeting was delayed, committee member Camille Kotton said on Wednesday that the panel has been discussing the potential for boosters for months, and that the data are sufficient for the Biden administration to recommend them.


With such a tight deadline before the rollout is set to begin in late September, even a one-week delay adds more pressure on the White House to meet its ambitious goal.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.