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Gottlieb says messaging on COVID-19 boosters could be “one of the biggest missed opportunities in this pandemic”

Scott Gottlieb, M.D.

Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said Sunday that the mixed messaging by the federal government over who can and should receive a COVID-19 booster shot may end up being one of the most consequential missteps of the pandemic.

“I think the confusing message around the boosters may end up being one of the biggest missed opportunities in this pandemic. We now see very clear evidence of declining vaccine effectiveness over time,” Gottlieb said on “Face the Nation.” “There’s different reasons why that may be the case, but the trend is unmistakable.”

Gottlieb added that anyone who is eligible for a booster shot should be going out and seeking one.

“This is the fastest way that we can increase the total immunity in the population because someone who has an old vaccine that may only have 50% of its effectiveness left, they go out and get a booster, they restore 95% effectiveness based on the data that we’ve seen within a matter of days,” said Gottlieb.

He said the failure to encourage the widespread adoption of booster shots could prove to have been “a very big” missed opportunity to get ahead of the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

“We have to look at the immunity in terms of not just how many people have been vaccinated, but also the depth of immunity, how many people have a lot of residual immune protection against this virus and are going to be what we call a dead-end host and not going to be someone who can catch and spread this virus,” stated Gottlieb.

Gottlieb noted that the fastest way to turn someone into a dead-end host is to get them fully vaccinated.

“There’s a lot of people with declining vaccine effectiveness right now who can both catch and spread this virus. If we give them a booster, we restore the full effectiveness of that vaccine,” said Mr. Gottlieb.

COVID-19 booster shots have been recommended by the FDA for at-risk recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna shots, as well individuals who are 65 and older. Three states — California, Colorado and New Mexico — have expanded access to all eligible adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.7% of fully vaccinated individuals have received a booster shot since the end of August.

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