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Biden NIH Director Gets Grilled Over Booster Shot Program

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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion


It was not a fantastic weekend for members of the Joe Biden administration as they traversed the talk show circuit and were hit with some tough questions.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace took on NIH director Francis Collins and laced into him about Biden’s plan for vaccine boosters after it was shot down by the FDA.

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“Do you now agree with them on this limited booster program over what the president was proposing last month, the general population getting boosters, which he said was based on advice from his medical experts, including you?” Wallace said, but Collins fought back.

“You know, Chris, I think there’s less difference between where we were in the middle of August and what the advisory committee said this past Friday. They did encourage and vote for the administration of boosters to people over 65 and those at high risk of exposure,” the director said.

“Those are the people who would be most likely to reach that eight-month period, because that’s how we prioritized initial immunizations back in January. So, I don’t think there’s huge differences here. I think the big news is that they actually did approve the initiation of boosters, and remember, they are taking a snapshot of right now.

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“We’re going to see what happens in the coming weeks. It would surprise me if it does not become clear over the next few weeks that that administration of boosters may need to be enlarged. Based upon the data that was already seen both in the U.S. and in Israel, it’s clear the waning of the effectiveness of those vaccines is a reality, and we need to respond to it, but they looked at where we were on Friday and said here’s where the data is convincing to start now and we’ll see what CDC says later this week,” he said.

Wallace asked the director if he does “still think we are going to near booster program for everyone?”

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“I’m not sure about absolutely everyone. We’ll have to see what they say ultimately about the youngest individuals because of concerns about benefits and risks, but I will be surprised if boosters are not recommended for people under 65 going forward in the next few weeks, but we’ll wait and see. You know, Chris, what you’re seeing here is science playing out in a very transparent way. This is the way it ought to be. I’m a little troubled that people are complaining that the process isn’t working for them. The process is to look at the data, have the experts consider it and then make their best judgments — at that point, recognizing that the judgments may change. If people want an absolutely authoritative statement about here’s the right answer — well, that’s not what our country is all about. Move to China, you’ll get it there,” he said.

But Wallace pressed on, using Biden’s own words against him.

“Back during the campaign, he talked a lot about ‘follow the science,’” he said. “Isn’t announcing a specific date, and a specific plan, for the general population before any of the regulators — the FDA, the CDC — have approved it, isn’t that the exact opposite of ‘follow the science?’”

“I guess I’m a little troubled, Chris, about all of the buzz that’s happening right now about whether the process was perfect. Of course it’s not perfect. Bo process ever is,” the director insisted.

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“But have we lost track of the goals? The goals here are to try to protect Americans from dying from this disease — 670,000 have already. It does look, from review of the data, by people by myself, that we are going to need to provide boosters for people at risk in order to keep this surge from beginning to affect even those who are fully vaccinated.

“We’re trying to do the right thing, trying to look at the data as it evolves, recognize things are changing day by day. Maybe we ought to be talking more about that than whether the president said this a month ago, and FDA said this on Friday. Let’s try to get the science right, and do it transparently and openly so everybody sees what the process looks like,” he said.

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