A "shift" in the government's COVID vaccine policy?

A "shift" in the government's COVID vaccine policy?
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

In a set of documents released yesterday, the FDA announced that its Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will vote Thursday on what’s being described as a “major shift” in the government’s COVID vaccine strategy. Some of the people who have been sounding the alarm over the vaccines recently, particularly the latest boosters, may read that news and suspect that some good news may be on the horizon. But looking deeper into the preview of the policy, it’s not very different from the long-term strategy that Washington has been pushing all along.

Rather than cranking out a series of boosters every time a new variant shows up, this plan would switch the government’s guidance to recommend a single COVID shot once per year, treating it pretty much the same as the current flu vaccines. So it would appear that none of the current questions making the rounds regarding these vaccines are being addressed for now. (NPR)

The Food and Drug Administration is considering a major shift in the nation’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy.

The goal is to simplify vaccination against COVID and perhaps adopt an approach similar to what is used for the flu vaccine, with annual updates to match whatever strain of the virus is circulating. This is according to a federal official who spoke under the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

NPR reported the proposed shift early Monday morning, and later Monday the FDA outlined it publicly in a set of documents releasedin advance of a meeting Thursday of the agency’s Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC).

For well over a year, we’ve been hearing similar discussions among government officials, including the sainted Dr. Fauci. Once most of the country was vaccinated, they would monitor new variants of the virus and “fine-tune” the vaccines for the upcoming season, just as they do with the flu shots. So if this plan is adopted, it won’t be a “shift” as much as the culmination of the plan they had been working toward all along.

Of course, what’s not being said in this release is how this approach would accelerate the process of trying to “normalize” the COVID vaccines, making them part of the annual ritual undertaken by so many Americans. “Nothing to see here. Go get your flu and COVID shots during your checkup this fall and be ready for the winter flu and COVID season.”

But plenty of people in the medical community (at least the ones that are being honest) are not sure that we’re even close to the point where we should be “normalizing” these mRNA vaccines. The flu vaccines work quite well and they are made in the traditional method of weakening samples of the latest strain of the flu. As the flu virus evolves, so too do the vaccines.

The same can not be said for the mRNA vaccines. Keep in mind that it was less than two weeks ago when the CDC issued a warning about “safety signals” that had been detected, with an abnormally high number of people suffering strokes after receiving the Bivalent Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. And that’s hardly the first red flag that’s gone up. We seem to be behind the curve compared to other countries, particularly in Europe, where more extensive testing has led them to essentially end the distribution of these vaccines except for those most at risk.

Unlike the flu vaccine (which has been studied and tested extensively for generations), we are still in the early stages of gathering data about the long-term efficacy and safety of the mRNA jabs. And the people who study such data for a living are willing to admit it.

None of this is to say that we may not eventually get this mRNA technology sorted out and have confidence in doctors determining who should or shouldn’t take which vaccine or how often. Hopefully, we’ll get there. But it seems clear that we’re not there yet and this move by the FDA looks premature. Perhaps dangerously so.

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