Best practices for health and safety have shifted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them are booster shots, with some saying "go ahead" while others tell us to slow down. Despite word from President Biden that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shots would be available as early as this week, contradictory information is putting things on hold.
If not now, when will COVID-19 vaccine booster shots be available to Americans? To find out, you have to sift through a lot of noise.
Biden initially said that boosters would start the week of Sept. 20
Last month, the Biden administration announced that it would be ready to start offering booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as soon as Sept. 20. However, the White House clarified that it would only do so if health officials approved the move. Biden stuck to that plan through Sept. 17 and hoped to catch health officials on their coattails.
At the time of Biden's announcement, scientific evidence about the efficacy of booster shots was limited. He didn't clarify which groups would be able to get the booster shot first if it did go through, but it would likely involve high-risk individuals and senior citizens.
Ultimately, Biden's booster plan proved to be overly optimistic as health officials veered off course.
The FDA and WHO are saying no to boosters and Fauci agrees
Despite Biden's push for booster shots, health officials have taken a different approach. The FDA rejected the booster shot decision for Americans in the general public to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. The vote occurred on Sept. 17.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the NIAID and the chief medical adviser to Biden, defended the FDA's decision. He said, "I don't think they made a mistake." Right now, scientific data for third booster shots is lacking and a third shot shows potential to incite heart inflammation in the specified population.
Meanwhile, the WHO (World Health Organization) is also against booster shots at this point. However, the WHO has different reasons for denying booster shots. The organization doesn't want wealthy nations to hoard vaccines while developing nations (many in Africa) suffer with a vaccination rate as low as 2 percent.
The FDA isn't opposed to booster shots for people ages 65+
While the FDA isn't ready to approve booster shots for the general public, it isn't opposed to offering them for people ages 65 and older. This move could help the U.S. to continue increasing the vaccination rate for all Americans while simultaneously protecting vulnerable communities.
When will booster shots be available?
There's undoubtedly conflicting information about when a booster shot is coming. Biden backtracked on his original forecast and stated that the Sept. 30 date was a placeholder. He wants to develop a plan now so it's ready to roll out when the time comes.
We'll likely see vaccine availability for children before a third shot rolls around. Fauci says that's definitely happening this fall.
Pfizer-BioNTech will likely be the first booster shot in the U.S.
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shot research are behind Pfizer-BioNTech, which means that the latter will likely be the first booster shot available. It isn't clear whether patients need to get the same shot or how long they should wait (research suggests six months at the very least). However, immunocompromised and elderly individuals could benefit most.