Former Obama administration official, Dr. Kavita Patel told CNBC on Monday that she expected a Covid vaccine booster due to new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus to eventually be approved by U.S. regulators.
“With the threat of the Delta variant and possibly other looming variants in the future, it seems inevitable that we will need a booster shot,” said Patel on Squawk Box. “But that trillion dollar question is when? It seems like six months is early.”
The comments from Patel, who now works as a family doctor in Washington, came before Pfizer representatives met with federal health officials on Monday to discuss the possible need for Covid booster vaccinations.
Pfizer recently said it is developing a booster shot to combat the highly transmissible Delta variant. In that announcement, the drug maker cited internal data and a study in Israel showing that six months after vaccination, people experience decreased immunity from Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine as Delta becomes the predominant variant in the country.
The company said a third dose of its existing vaccine could help boost immunity. Over the past few months, executives at Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have said that people will likely need a third dose of vaccine within a year of being fully vaccinated.
However, shortly after Pfizer’s announcement last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration released a joint statement stating that fully vaccinated Americans do not currently need a booster vaccination.
This view is supported by health experts like Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, shared. Jha told CNBC on Friday that he had “seen no evidence yet that anyone needs a third shot”.
While Patel said data suggests that all three Covid vaccines currently approved in the US – the two-dose vaccines Pfizer and Moderna and the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson – offer “more than enough immunity” to advance Pfizer criticized Pfizer for not working on the booster intake to protect her from severe hospitalizations and death.
“I think what we do know is that, even six months ago, immunity declines over time. The question is how long? ”Said Patel, who served as policy director for the Bureau of Interstate Affairs and Public Engagement in the Obama administration.
People shouldn’t get a third vaccination now, Patel warned.
“We have seen patients who did this unintentionally, or even on purpose, and they had more dramatic side effects than the second shot, so I wouldn’t encourage anyone,” said Patel.
Finally, if a booster is recommended by regulators, people should expect the CDC to make recommendations for specific populations, similar to what happened when the vaccine was initially introduced with a focus on high-risk groups. “It won’t come one, it will all come,” she said.
Patel said the conversation about booster shots in the US must take into account the global impact given the difficult introduction in other parts of the world.
“It won’t help the United States if the rest of the world stays unvaccinated and they have the opportunity to get hundreds of millions of doses because we got a booster,” said Patel.