More Covid shots are on the way for Americans, even as daily infections remain near pandemic lows and mortality from the virus continues to crater, leading to many in the United States wanting to move on from the pandemic all together.
Dr Peter Marks, who leads the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), making him the top vaccine regulator in the agency, said during a conference call Tuesday that he believes all Americans will need a fourth vaccine shot as soon as this fall.
The remarks come the same day that the FDA approved second booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans 50 and older, and made immunocompromised people 12 and older eligible as well.
The move came as Covid cases and deaths continue to recede. America is averaging 31,090 cases per day, a flat figure over the past week. Deaths are plummeting in the U.S. as well, with the nation recording an average of 802 per day, a 22 percent drop over the past seven days.
While America’s virus situation seems to be improving, the World Health Organization (WHO) warns that the world suffered 45,000 Covid deaths last week, a 40 percent increase week-over-week, though much of that rise comes from a change in how the organization tallies case figures.
‘It would not be surprising if there is a potential need for people to get an additional booster in the fall along with a more general booster campaign if that takes place,’ Marks told reporters.
‘It may be that a decision is made that rather than the vaccines we currently have, which are called vaccines against the prototype virus, that we will move to a vaccine that is either against one of the variants or something else.’
Dr Peter Marks (pictured), the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, said that he expects all Americans to need a fourth shot of a COVID-19 vaccine this fall
The agency has scheduled an advisory committee meeting on April 6 to discuss the future of booster shots in America, including the fourth shots and beyond.
Marks said that a study out of Israel found that the fourth dose reduced risk of hospitalization or death caused by the virus, though other studies found that it did little to protect younger adults – who rarely face hospitalization or death from the virus anyways.
Not all experts believe the shot is necessary either.
Dr Anna Durbin is an international public health expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and has been a critic of Pfizer, Moderna and the White House’s insistence to roll out COVID-19 booster shots before they are needed. Last week, she told ABC that she does not believe many Americans will benefit from additional shots.
‘There are very few, if any, people who, in my opinion require a fourth dose,’ she said.
In August, when the White House was laying out plans to roll out the first batch COVID-19 booster shots, Durbin was also a critic, telling DailyMail.com that there was little science backing up the decision.
‘In general, it’s too early to recommend a fourth dose, except for those who are immune compromised,’ Dr Paul Goepfert, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC.
The additional shots were approved partly out of fear of the BA.2 ‘stealth’ variant that is gaining ground in the U.S.
The CDC reports that the more infectious BA.2 ‘stealth’ lineage (light pink) of Omicron is now dominant in the U.S. The Omicron variant makes up every single sequences Covid case in the U.S.
The strain, which earned the moniker from its ability to avoid detection through some sequencing methods, is believed to be the most infectious version of Covid yet – but is just as mild as the BA.1 version of Omciron that took over the world last last year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday that it now makes up 55 percent of active Covid cases in the U.S., taking the mantle from BA.1 as the nation’s dominant strain.
As a whole, Omicron is still the dominant variant and makes up every single case sequenced by the CDC, the agency reports.
There are fears that this strain will cause another surge of cases in America, like it did in other parts of the world in recent weeks.
The WHO has warned that case rises in Europe, Africa and Asia during March that reversed a month’s long trend of falling cases was only the start of the BA.2 surge.
This week, the organization reported that Covid deaths are starting to rise around the world, though case figures are trending downwards once more.
About ten million new COVID-19 infections and more than 45,000 deaths were reported worldwide over the past week, following a 23 percent drop in fatalities the week before.
The jump in reported deaths, up from 33,000 last week, was due mainly to an accounting change; WHO noted that countries including Chile and the United States altered how they define COVID-19 deaths.
In addition, more than 4,000 deaths from Maharashtra state in India that initially weren’t included among the COVID-19 death toll were added last week, according to the WHO.
WHO has said repeatedly that COVID-19 case counts are likely a vast underestimate of the coronavirus’ prevalence.
The agency cautioned countries in recent weeks against dropping their comprehensive testing and other surveillance measures, saying that doing so would cripple efforts to accurately track the spread of the virus.
‘Data are becoming progressively less representative, less timely and less robust,’ WHO said.
‘This inhibits our collective ability to track where the virus is, how it is spreading and how it is evolving: information and analyses that remain critical to effectively end the acute phase of the pandemic.’