The COVID booster shot campaign was supposed to begin at the start of next week, but it still remains unclear if the Food and Drug Administration will give the go-ahead for it, and which groups of people might be included.

A special panel of scientific advisors will review the latest data at a meeting on Friday and then make a recommendation to the FDA, while a separate committee that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will also weigh in on the matter.

Complicating things is a report issued by an FDA panel on Wednesday concluded the current Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are providing strong protection against severe illness and death from COVID, and booster shots aren’t needed.

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Dr. Stanley H. Weiss, a Rutgers University epidemiologist an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, said the booster shot issue is multi-faceted because different studies have produced different results.

“The data evolving on the booster shows there are select groups that need a booster now to get better protected. The timing for other people is still under investigation;" he said. "The exact age cutoff is not yet clear.”

“Surely those over 80 need a booster, and many have argued those over 60 or 65 should get a booster as soon as possible,”  he added.

Some health experts believe the FDA could initially approve booster shots for individuals over the age of 65 who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago.

Weiss pointed out those who are immuno-compromised have already received the green light for a booster, but “for those who are younger and don’t fall into one of those groups, there’s probably a little bit of time to wait and to evaluate what are the best forms of boosters may be.”

He noted right now booster shots are identical to the vaccines initially administered but pharmaceutical companies could wind up tweaking the formulation to specifically attack the Delta, or some other variant that evolves.

Weiss said many individuals with any sort of compromised immune system may not have responded well to the initial doses of vaccine “so giving them a booster is logical, we don’t know to what degree a booster will actually succeed in getting them sufficient protection.”

The World Health Organization has opposed the idea of offering booster shots, arguing it’s more important to focus on primary protection in other countries around the world where COVID vaccines remain scarce.

WHO points out unless the populations of these nations get vaccinated COVID will continue to widely mutate and dangerous new variants will continue to emerge.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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