Biden’s big COVID challenge: Fading vaccines may demand boosters

Authors: Caitlin OwensSam Bake

The Biden administration is intensely scrutinizing coronavirus vaccines’ effectiveness over time, facing the daunting task of timing booster shots right while still convincing the unvaccinated that getting the jab is worthwhile.

The bottom line: The vaccines still work incredibly well at protecting against severe disease and death, meaning the benefits of getting vaccinated are immense. But it’s less clear how well they’re working at preventing infection, which has huge public health implications with so many Americans still unvaccinated.

“I think everybody believes this wanes over time, the question is to what extent,” a senior Biden official said. “Nobody wants to be behind the eight-ball here. We want to catch it before there’s an issue, and that’s why there is very intense scrutiny.”

  • But getting the timing right won’t be easy, especially without better data than we have now.
  • “By the time we have the data that efficacy is declining, we’re already behind,” said a person close to the administration. “A public health decision can be made on imperfect data. So are you waiting for a ton of breakthrough cases and a ton of death and disease before you boost everyone? That’s not a good idea.”

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