Fred Hutch doctor wants COVID-19 booster approved for adults

SEATTLE — The delta variant is putting the COVID-19 vaccine to the ultimate test.

Dr. Larry Corey of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle oversees the phase 3 clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine. He said now is the time for booster shots.

Corey is focused on adults ages 30 and older to get boosters as soon as possible.  While the pandemic is being driven by the unvaccinated, he said booster shots could interrupt the rapid rate of transmission.

“We have the vaccine. Do we want to keep it in a bottle, or do we want to use it?” said Corey.

In phase 3 clinical trials, he said boosters are being given to all participants. He said the highly contagious delta variant makes a booster crucial.

“So it is eight times more infectious than what we developed the vaccines for,” said Corey.

With Pfizer, he said a booster dose will increase antibodies to a level more than five times higher than the initial vaccinations. Hesaid it will help keep people from contracting COVID-19 in the first place.

“If you don’t acquire it, you can’t get infected. And if you’re not getting infected, you won’t transmit it, and we will start seeing a reduced circulation,” said Corey.

On Friday, a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will hold a meeting to discuss Pfizer’s application for a booster shot.

This comes as two outgoing FDA officials questioned the need for a third shot, a position that puts them at odds with the FDA, top health officials of President Joe Biden’s administration, and outside medical experts.

Corey said new data out of Israel backs up the need to boost now. Israel approved a booster shot for those 60 and older in late July.

Next week, the United Kingdom will offer booster shots for people 50 and older and the vulnerable.

Here in the United States, boosters are already recommended for the immunocompromised.

Corey said with more people getting out to socialize and, as the weather changes,  more people will head indoors to gather, which will increase the exposure rate. He said a booster shot will help.

“So you’re spinning around, and you’re having the epidemic. One reason to boost is to see if we can control that,” said Corey.

He expects the FDA to approve boosters for the elderly as early as late this week. He hopes it will consider including more adults.