Administration

​​Former Trump FDA commissioner says yearly COVID-19 boosters may be needed

Stephen Hahn, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner under former President Trump, told Axios in an interview that he believed COVID-19 booster shots might be needed on a yearly basis.

"What I find interesting with omicron is that there are some early and encouraging results of people not getting particularly sick from this variant," Hahn told the news outlet. "Viruses often mutate to survive, but become less virulent during that mutation, so that might be what we're seeing. ... Instead of getting a booster every six months, it could maybe be once a year."

However, he did include the caveat to Axios that this was his "best guess" on the matter.

Scientists are trying to learn more about the omicron variant that was first detected in South Africa last month and has since spread to multiple states in the U.S. as well as other countries.

Health officials are attempting to learn how contagious and severe the variant is compared to prior strains such as delta. They are researching whether the present COVID-19 vaccines are effective enough against omicron or if variant-specific treatment and vaccines may be required.

Information from preliminary studies indicated that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in addition to a booster neutralize the variant, the two companies said on Wednesday.

"Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it's clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine," Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla said.

"Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19," he added.

Health officials also anticipate that the definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" will change, though it is unclear when health agencies will change that guidance.

"Right now, I don't see that changing tomorrow or next week," President Biden's chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, adding that his "own personal opinion" is "it's going to be a matter of when, not if."

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