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FDA denies booster shots for general population

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 9:09 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A panel advising the Food and Drug Administration recommended Pfizer booster shots for people over 65, those immunocompromised and for medical staff and first responders who received their vaccines more than six months ago.

But not for the general population, which came as a surprise.

“Well the booster shot conversation is still an evolving conversation,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Chief Medical Officer for Pima County. “So I think the jury is still out.”

The panel said it didn’t have enough data to make a decision, which means the issue will be revisited at some time in the future.

The Centers for Disease Control will weigh in next week and has the power to make a decision counter to the FDA.

In the meantime, the quandary over how to get more people vaccinated has hit a proverbial wall.

Because of the high transmissibility of the Delta variant, what might have been termed herd immunity a few months ago is outdated.

Whereas with the garden style virus, 75% of the population vaccinated may have been enough to keep the virus at bay. Pima County has now vaccinated 75% of its adult population but need more.

Now, health officials are calling for 90 to 95% to be effective but in the current political climate, that’s likely not attainable.

“I do believe that it is possible to get 80 to 85% that will afford us a degree of protection,” Dr. Garcia said. “But I do think there is a subset of the population that I feel like we will not be able to reach.”

That subset could be as high as 20% of the population although it appears the latest numbers put the very resistant at 15%

That’s still short of what the experts say is needed.

“My nightmare scenario is that we will have low but significant levels of infection that will persist here beyond the next six months, to a year to years,” Dr. Garcia said.

Instead of herd immunity, which was the preferred term at the time, now the experts talk about ‘stability in the community’.

It doesn’t mean the virus disappears but that there is predictable, controllable number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Are we where we need to be, absolutely not,” he said. “Can we improve, I believe we can.”

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