The U.S. needs to stop the confusion over boosters

It’s impossible to predict how the panel’s discussion and votes will go on Friday, but I’d wager it will be contentious. While the F.D.A. is not bound by the advisory panel’s guidance, the agency usually follows it. Even if the F.D.A. authorizes boosters, the final decisions on whether and how to use them widely will come from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which reports to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That committee has already recommended boosters for immunocompromised people.

Unfortunately, many Americans have already heard boosters are coming. I know a fair number of people who have already gotten them in anticipation. Should anything less than widespread authorization come out of Friday’s meeting, Americans will be confused. Many of them will be angry.

To do better, the F.D.A. and the Biden administration need to be clearer in their communication. The most important thing would be to clarify the goals of a booster plan, should one be put in place. If the main reason to vaccinate is to reduce Covid-19 to a more manageable respiratory virus, one that causes far less hospitalization and death, boosters might be continued for the immunocompromised and considered for the elderly, but may not be needed yet for most people.