Walensky: 'We don't necessarily have the answer' for annual boosters

Walensky: 'We don't necessarily have the answer' for annual boosters
© Greg Nash

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFauci: Omicron appears to be less severe Officials seek to reassure public over omicron fears The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE on Sunday admitted to not having all the answers yet to questions about possible COVID-19 annual booster shots.

While appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Walensky was asked by host Margaret Brennan if people should be prepared to receive annual COVID-19 booster shots in the wake of a week in which an FDA advisory panel recommended boosters for those 65 and older and people with compromised immune systems.

"I want to emphasize that our goal right now is to stay ahead of the virus. We want to boost now so we don't end up in a vulnerable place," said Walensky. “Your question is an important one, and it is one we don't necessarily have the answer for yet. We are working to stay ahead of the virus."

"If we can get the amount of transmission down in this country and truly around the world, which we are also working to do, then we are anticipating and hoping that we will not have more mutations that will require more boosting in the future," Walensky added.

Last week, Walensky partially overruled an advisory panel and made it so that booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will be made available to people over the age of 65 as well as people at risk of COVID-19 infection due to high exposure at certain jobs.

Speaking on this decision Sunday, Walensky told Brennan that it was a "scientific close call."

"Where there was some real scientific discussion and a scientific close call was for those people who are at high risk of living by virtue of where they live or where they work," she said. "Because of all the evidence we reviewed both at the [Food and Drug Administration] FDA and at the CDC, I felt it was appropriate for those people to also be eligible for boosters."

Walensky has previously said that she does not expect annual COVID boosters to become commonplace, though she still acknowledged that there were many unknowns left in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"You know, this virus has been humbling, so I don't want to say never, but we are not necessarily anticipating that you will need this annually," Walensky said in August. "It does look like after this third dose you get a really robust response, and so we will continue to follow the science both on the vaccine side but also on the virus side."