Why are the best scientists against COVID boosters?

The history of science is full of disagreements. Taking a contrarian point of view has contributed to many scientific advances over the years. It should come as no surprise then that some top scientists have opposed booster injections for COVID-19 vaccines. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on September 15Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss what is behind this opposition.

[Note: This recording was made prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approving a booster for the COVID-19 vaccine marketed by Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX).]

Keith Speights: Probably one of the biggest stories of COVID-19 right now is that a group of international scientists, including two senior exiting FDA officials, have concluded that boosters are not necessary, at least for now. . There was a report, an article published in The Lancet Monday, this detailed their conclusion.

Brian, what’s behind this reasoning, and does it mean anything to major vaccine stocks?

Brian Orelli: The basic idea here is that you might get sick because your antibody levels have gone down over time, but you have other defenses that can eventually kick in and so you’re not likely to get sick, you are not likely to have a serious illness. They argue that the risk of side effects from the vaccine does not justify the booster’s benefits, because whatever the death rate is, you compare it to the death rate from the risk of side effects. , it’s hard to quantify.

Maybe I’ll give you an example. Take the common cold. If I could make sure that you never caught a cold but there was a 5% chance of dying I think most people would say, [laughs] I’m not going to do this. I don’t like being cold, but I don’t like the 5% chance of dying.

But then if I drop 0.5%, probably not, 0.05%, probably not because the common cold is not going to kill you. But at some point we have an infinitesimal chance that you will die rather than not having to face it. [laughs] with the cold for the rest of your life and especially if you have a long life ahead of you. At some point, it’s worth taking that risk. But it’s hard to say [laughs] exactly where it should be.

This example is only a two-sided example. There are a lot more questions for boosters. You have mild illness versus severe illness and you have several different side effects that work in the potential. I think it’s a hard math to do, but they did [laughs] and they said they were on the side that boosters aren’t worth it right now.

Then they warn that they might be needed later if the antibodies keep dropping or the rest of your immune system weakens or we have an even stronger variant that could skew it, skewing the risk profile- reward towards boosters. I would also note that WHO officials were also involved in the writing of this article and that they are obviously more concerned about the disease globally.

Their concern is that if we use boosters, then if our supply is limited, those boosters will not be available elsewhere for countries with low vaccination rates. This is not just an ethical argument over who should get the boosters and arguably vaccinations elsewhere will help people in the United States because the rampant spread of the virus elsewhere increases the likelihood of new variants that can then return to the United States. and if they’re even deadlier, can overpower the boosters we have.

There’s also this argument that we could use these boosters to slow the spread, which might actually help us more than just give us the boosters. [laughs] There are a lot of things that come into play here.

Actions of Moderna (NASDAQ: mRNA) and BioNTech stumbled across the news when this article came out and it seems quite reasonable. The reviews from these companies assumed that boosters would be needed and I would say that not only are they assuming that a third booster will be needed, but they’re really waiting for a fourth and a fifth and so on to really justify their reviews. Especially that of Moderna, it exceeds around 170 million dollars.

Speights: Brian, what’s your opinion, just your opinion. Is there enough evidence, do you think, for the United States to go ahead with booster doses at this point?

Orelli: I think there’s probably enough evidence for certain populations, populations that are sicker, that are more likely to die. If you do get the disease, it is more likely to progress to serious illness. I think there’s probably enough evidence to justify recalls, but I think in healthy people, in general, I think the jury is still out and leans not to demand recalls.

We’ll have to wait and see what the FDA advisory committee does on Friday and then if the FDA makes a quick enough decision. So even then, they have to approve the recalls, but then it goes to the CDC and the CDC vaccine committee, which is not an advisory committee, it’s a mix.

I guess they make a recommendation, but it’s part of the CDC. This is what is going to be the law of the land and so doctors will follow the CDC’s recommendation. The FDA could approve the boosters and then the CDC could come out and say, yes, we just think they should use a certain population or we don’t think they should be used at this time, but we will continue to monitor the situation. . Even the FDA’s decision won’t be the final event here as to whether we need boosters.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Challenging an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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