09/24/2021

Behind The Booster Battle

16:41 minutes

a woman in a suit speaking into a microphone surrounded by binders and water bottles
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Credit: U.S. Senate

an orange button that has two logos, one in white that reads "scifri" and a blue square with white font that reads "khn"This story is a collaboration between Science Friday and KHN. In the article published on September 16, written before the FDA review, Kaiser Health News’ Arthur Allen and Sarah Jane Tribble examine the backstory behind the debate over boosters, and how leaders from the NIH got out in front of FDA and CDC recommendations.


Update 9/24/2021: In late August, President Biden said that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots might soon be on the horizon for many Americans. But last Friday, an FDA advisory committee voted to recommend booster doses only for people over age 65. This week, the FDA authorized Pfizer boosters for use in the elderly and “high risk” individuals—which led to CDC director Rochelle Walensky overruling the recommendations of an advisory panel and authorized the same boosters for the same groups of people, mirroring an earlier FDA decision.

In the republished article below from September 16, written before the FDA review, Kaiser Health News’ Arthur Allen and Sarah Jane Tribble examine the backstory behind the debate over boosters, and how leaders from the NIH got out in front of FDA and CDC recommendations.


In January—long before the first jabs of COVID-19 vaccine were even available to most Americans—scientists working under Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases were already thinking about potential booster shots.

A month later, they organized an international group of epidemiologists, virologists and biostatisticians to track and sequence COVID variants. They called the elite group SAVE, or SARS-Cov-2 Variant Testing Pipeline. And by the end of March, the scientists at NIAID were experimenting with monkeys and reviewing early data from humans showing that booster shots provided a rapid increase in protective antibodies—even against dangerous variants.

Fauci, whose team has closely tracked research from Israel, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, said in an exclusive interview with KHN on Wednesday that “there’s very little doubt that the boosters will be beneficial.” But, he emphasized, the official process, which includes reviews by scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, needs to take place first.

“If they say, ‘We don’t think there’s enough data to do a booster,’ then so be it,” Fauci said. “I think that would be a mistake, to be honest with you.”

The support for an extra dose of COVID vaccine clearly emerged, at least in part, from an NIH research dynamo, built by Fauci, that for months has been getting intricate real-time data about COVID variants and how they respond to vaccine-produced immunity. The FDA and CDC were seeing much of the same data, but as regulatory agencies, they were more cautious. The FDA, in particular, won’t rule on a product until the company making it submits extensive data. And its officials are gimlet-eyed reviewers of such studies.

On boosters, Americans have heard conflicting messages from various parts of the U.S. government. Yet, Fauci said, “there is less disagreement and conflicts than seem to get out into the tweetosphere.” He ticked off a number of prominent scientists in the field—including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock and COVID vaccine inventor Barney Graham—who were on board with his position. All but Graham are members of the White House COVID task force.

Another task force member, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, said her agency was tracking vaccine effectiveness and “we’re starting to see some waning in terms of infections that foreshadows what we may be seeing soon in regard to hospitalizations and severe disease.” As to when so-called boosters should start, she told PBS NewsHour on Tuesday, “I’m not going to get ahead of the FDA’s process.”

Differences in the scientific community are likely to be voiced Friday when the FDA’s vaccine advisory board meets to review Pfizer-BioNTech’s request for approval of a third shot. Indeed, even the FDA’s official briefing paper before the meeting expressed skepticism. “Overall,” agency officials noted, “data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death.” The agency also stated that it’s unclear whether an additional shot might increase the risk of myocarditis, which has been reported, particularly in young men, following the second Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Part of the disagreement arose because President Joe Biden had announced that Americans could get a booster as soon as Sept. 20, a date Fauci and colleagues had suggested to him as practical and optimal in one of their frequent meetings just days before—though he cautioned that boosters would need CDC and FDA approval.

Now it appears that that decision and the timing rest with the FDA, which is the normal procedure for new uses of vaccines or drugs. And Fauci said he respects that process—but he thinks it should come as quickly as possible. “If you’re doing it because you want to prevent people from getting sick, then the sooner you do it, the better,” Fauci said.

Researchers at the NIH typically focus on early-stage drug development, asking how a virus infects and testing ways to treat the infection. The job of reviewing and approving a drug or vaccine for public use is “just not how the NIH was set up. NIH does relatively little research on actual products,” said Diana Zuckerman, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton and president of the nonprofit National Center for Health Research in Washington, D.C.

“It’s no secret that FDA doesn’t have the disease experts in the way that the NIH does,” Zuckerman said. “And it’s no secret that the NIH doesn’t have the experts in analyzing industry data.”

‘Data in Spades’

Yet no other infectious disease expert in any branch of the U.S. government has Fauci’s influence. And while other scientific leaders support boosters, many scientists believe Fauci and his colleagues at the NIAID—some of the world’s leaders in immunology and vaccinology, men and women in daily contact with their foreign peers and their research findings—are leading the charge.

Fauci was hard-pressed to give exact dates for when his thinking turned on the need for boosters. The past 18 months are a blur, he said. But “there’s very little doubt that the boosters will be beneficial. The Israelis already have that data in spades. They boost, they get an increase by tenfold in the protection against infection and severe disease.”

In July, Israel, which started vaccinating its population early and used only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, began reporting severe breakthrough cases in previously vaccinated elderly people. Israel’s Ministry of Health announced boosters July 29. Fauci noted that Israel and—to a lesser extent—the U.K. were about a month and a half ahead of the U.S. at every stage of dealing with COVID.

And once Israel had boosted its population, the Israeli scientists showed their NIH counterparts, hospitalizations of previously vaccinated people, which had been rising, dropped dramatically. Emerging evidence suggests boosters make people far less likely to transmit the virus to others, an important added benefit.

To be sure, members of the White House COVID response team—including Fauci and former FDA Commissioner David Kessler—had begun preparing a timeline for boosters months earlier. Kessler, speaking to Congress in May, said that it was unclear then whether the boosters would be needed but that the U.S. had the money to purchase them and ensure they were free.

Fauci explained that “practically speaking, the earliest we could do it would be the third week in September. Hence the date of the week of September the 20th was chosen.” The hope was that would give regulators enough time. The FDA’s advisory board meeting Friday is set to be followed next week by a gathering of the CDC’s immunization advisory committee, which offers recommendations for vaccine use that can lead to legal mandates.

Tuesday, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s head of public health services, told a Hebrew-language webinar that her country’s booster launch came at a critical time. She provided supporting data that Israeli scientists are bringing to the FDA meeting Friday.

Some U.S. scientists have discussed limiting the boosters mostly to those over 60, Alroy-Preis noted, but “if you don’t keep it under control, it’s like a pot on the flame. If you don’t start lowering the flames of the pandemic, you can’t control it.”

Real-Time Science

Scientists tracking the coronavirus are swimming in data. Hundreds of COVID studies are published or released onto pre-publication servers every day. Scientists also share their findings on group email lists and in Zoom meetings every week—and on Twitter and in news interviews.

Kessler, chief science officer of the White House COVID response team, said the case for boosters is “rooted in NIH science” but includes data from Israel, the Mayo Clinic, the pharmaceutical companies and elsewhere.

As Fauci put it: “Every 15 minutes, a pre-print server comes out with something I don’t know.”

The SAVE group, active since February, was organized by NIH officials who in normal times track influenza epidemics. The 60 to 70 scientists are mostly from U.S. agencies such as the NIH, CDC, FDA and Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, but also from other countries, including Israel and the Netherlands.

“This is very much the basic scientists who are in the weeds trying to figure things out,” said Dr. Daniel Douek, chief of the human immunology section within NIAID. Douek said the larger SAVE group meets every Friday but several subgroups meet several times a week, focusing on different aspects of the virus, such as early detection of viral variants and testing suspicious variants for their ability to evade vaccine-induced immunity and sicken vaccinated mice and monkeys.

The sharing of data and information is free-flowing, Douek said. SAVE is “an amazing thing.”

Dr. Robert Seder, an NIH senior investigator, was in a group testing the booster theory long before America’s “Summer of Delta.” The researchers injected rhesus macaque monkeys with the Moderna vaccine for the “express purpose of looking at the immune responses over a long period of time.”

“Are they durable? And would you need to boost?” Seder said.

Matthew Frieman, a participant and associate professor of microbiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said the data makes it clear that the time for boosters is approaching. Biden’s booster announcement “may have gotten ahead of the game, but the trajectory is pointing toward the need for boosters,” Frieman said. “The level of antibody you need to protect against delta is higher because it replicates faster.”

While SAVE is an elite group, it’s not the only forum for discussing late-breaking data, said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. “We all saw the same data out of Israel,” she said. Dean, like many other scientists, found that data unconvincing.

Monday, an international group of scientists led by Dr. Philip Krause, deputy chief of the FDA’s vaccine regulation office, and including his boss, Dr. Marion Gruber, published an essay in The Lancet that questioned the need for widespread booster shots at this time.

Krause and Gruber had announced their retirements from the FDA on Aug. 30—at least partly in response to the booster announcement, according to four scientists who know them. Gruber, who will remain at the agency until later this fall, is listed as a participant in Friday’s meeting.

The Lancet paper argues that vaccine-based protection against severe COVID is still strong, while evidence is lacking that booster shots will be safe and effective. University of Florida biostatistician Ira Longini, a co-author on the Lancet paper, said it would be “immoral” to begin widespread boosters before the rest of the world was better vaccinated. As the disease continues its global spread, he noted, it is likely to develop deadlier and more vaccine-evasive mutants.

Longini was also skeptical of an August study, which Israeli scientists are to present to the FDA on Friday, that NIH officials had touted as strong evidence in support of boosters. On an Aug. 24 call with Israeli officials, Fauci urged them to publish that data, and a version appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

That study found that people receiving a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were 11 times more likely to be protected from COVID infection than those who had gotten only two doses. But the study observed people for less than two weeks after their booster vaccinations kicked in. Biostatisticians felt it had irregularities that raised questions about its worth.

“I don’t want to say the study isn’t correct, but it hasn’t been reviewed and there are possible biases,” said Longini, who helped design the 2015 trial that resulted in a successful Ebola vaccine and now works on global COVID vaccine trials.

Fauci emphasized that no single study or piece of data led Biden or the members of the White House COVID response team to conclude that boosting was necessary. The compilation of evidence of waning immunity combined with reams of research was a factor. Now the crucial decisions are in the hands of the regulators, awaiting the FDA and CDC’s judgment on how the nation should proceed.

“It isn’t as if,” Fauci said, “one day we’re sitting in the Oval Office saying, ‘You know, Mr. President, I think we need to boost.’ And he says, ‘Tony, go ahead and do it.’ You can’t do it that way. You’ve got to go through the process.”

Journalist Nathan Guttman contributed to this report.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.


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Segment Guests

Arthur Allen

Arthur Allen is an editor with Kaiser Health News, and is author of Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver.

Sarah Jane Tribble

Sarah Jane Tribble is a senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. This week the director of the CDC, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, overruled a recommendation by an advisory panel, and said health care workers or others who might be exposed in their jobs, as well as those over 65 and over, can get Pfizer boosters. That mirrors the FDA’s approval earlier this week.

Israel has already been administering third doses to much of its population, and here in the US, some people are seeking out an additional shot on their own flying totally under the official radar. So why is this policy so confusing, and who is in charge? Joining me now to help sort through those questions and other booster conundrums is Sarah Jane Tribble, Senior Correspondent for Kaiser Health News, and Arthur Allen, an editor there and author of the book Vaccine– The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver. They recently published an article delving into the booster backstory, and you can find that at sciencefriday.com/boosters. Welcome to Science Friday.

ARTHUR ALLEN: Thanks for having us.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah, thank you.

IRA FLATOW: Nice to have you both. Sarah Jane, how unusual is it for the CDC Director to overrule an advisory panel?

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: It’s very unusual. It was not expected, but I think that the Director, Walensky, wanted to go along with what the FDA had said earlier in the week, and also to kind of back up the plan that President Biden laid out in August.

IRA FLATOW: Arthur, isn’t it sort of nebulous? We don’t really know who these at risk individuals are, or the whole universe of them?

ARTHUR ALLEN: Well, we don’t know exactly who they all are, but we can think of some obvious groups who would have been very upset if they couldn’t be qualified for a booster, and that includes health care workers and teachers. And whether they’re really at highest risk– I mean there were during the CDC advisory committee meeting yesterday there were people who said, well, it turns out that most of the health care workers who’ve gotten COVID have gotten it at home and brought it to work. But it really doesn’t matter.

I mean, we have to remember that this is not really just a purely scientific decision. I don’t think you would say that it contravenes science, but it– the science is complicated and difficult to sort out, and there are political elements here. And one of them is that you have 2/3 of the country is vaccinated and has had it with the pandemic, and had it with the non-vaccinated people, and they want to get whatever protection is available.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah, one of the concerns for the advisory committee yesterday when they were discussing this was the idea that approving the booster would not enable more Americans who haven’t been vaccinated at all, it wouldn’t encourage them to go get that initial vaccination. They talked quite a bit about that.

IRA FLATOW: And Arthur, how soon do we think that the Moderna vaccine will be approved, because we’re talking only the Pfizer dose now?

ARTHUR ALLEN: Well, I think they’ve submitted their data to the FDA and sought a booster dose, so it’s up to the FDA. And we don’t know exactly, but I think it’s going to be soon. I think it’s going to be within the next couple of weeks at the latest, maybe sooner, maybe in the next few days, I don’t know.

IRA FLATOW: And Sarah, these Pfizer doses– are they the same ones that people have already been given, or is it a new formulation?

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: No, it’s the same one. You would go back and just get a third shot of the Pfizer dose. There was an interesting statistic presented during the meeting yesterday, and this idea that there is about 70% of the vaccinations given in the US are given at pharmacies like your CVS or your Walgreens. And already, more than 2.3 million people Americans have received an additional dose according to the data on the CDC website this morning.

IRA FLATOW: I know people who are doing that now who are 65 and older, and even people under 65– and just walking in and getting a shot, a third one.

ARTHUR ALLEN: Yeah.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah, I did a story on the idea that Pfizer was pushing boosters, and earlier this summer Pfizer’s CEO, Albert Bourla, came out and said that there was waning efficacy. And at the same time as people were hearing about this, I interviewed somebody, her name was Angie Melton, and she had decided that she would go get an extra shot. She had had Johnson & Johnson, she wanted to go get a shot of one of the mRNA vaccines because she was fearful about passing on the coronavirus to her child who is not qualified for a shot. He’s too young.

IRA FLATOW: Arthur, what’s going on when you get a booster? What is it doing to your immune system?

ARTHUR ALLEN: Well, the first shot, or the shots that you get, stimulate these immune cells either to make antibodies, or to recognize the virus and kill cells that are infected with it. And over time, the antibodies that you get in that first series start to wane– I guess which means they fall apart. Even as they’re fading, however, these cells that were stimulated by the vaccine to begin with, they apparently don’t die off as quickly assuming you have a healthy immune system. And they’re sort of lying in wait in your blood, or bone marrow, or lymph nodes. And with the booster they kind of get this jolt into multiplying and cranking out more antibodies, and in some cases, even diversifying or mutating in a way that gives them more versatility to attack the virus should you be infected.

IRA FLATOW: Do we know enough about boosters from previous vaccines? Why do some vaccines need boosters and some don’t?

ARTHUR ALLEN: Yeah, I think generally boosters are common with vaccines. In the old-timey days as you might say, there were these weakened live virus vaccines, like the smallpox vaccine and the measles vaccine, which is still a very effective vaccine. And these were viruses that had been weakened, and so they acted like viruses, they infect you– although they don’t make you sick usually– and they seem to stimulate a more kind of varied response by the immune system because it recognizes them as the real thing. Evolutionarily, it’s kind of trained to do that and to be ready the next time.

But live virus vaccines in some cases cause more side effects, and more recently, of course we’ve moved to these very sophisticated ways of producing vaccines that create a more targeted response to the pathogen, to COVID, in this case. So they create a more targeted response to the pathogen, but one that’s not as broad. So you need two or three shots usually, to get the full effect. So we talked to Dr. Fauci about this, and here’s what he said.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, in my mind– and it’s purely my instinct as an immunologist and an infectious disease person– that the proper regimen is ultimately going to be a three shot regimen where you get a prime, a boost, you let the immune system mature for several months– be that five, or six, or seven or whatever– and then you come in with the boost. So that’s the thing that seems to escape people when they start talking about boosts.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, because people think that by getting a booster that we’ve admitted that the vaccine isn’t working. Right? We have to have a booster, do they understand that’s part of the system?

ARTHUR ALLEN: I don’t think most people do. And I think most of us just really didn’t think about it. But if you know the history of vaccines, you know it’s a common thing.

IRA FLATOW: Sarah, you found that NIH had this in their mind for a while, right?

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah. The NIH itself has been talking about boosters since January, at least January. And not only have they been talking about it, but they’ve been working with scientists around the world forming a group called the Save Group. That group is 60 to 70 epidemiologists, infectious disease experts, and others from around the globe, including agencies here in the US. The FDA and CDC have members, and BARDA, they’re all part of that, but also from Israel, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

These folks meet once a week and they have subgroups to track the variants that are coming out with coronavirus, and then to collect samples, and then do tests with mice and animal testing. And so the reporting that we did really uncovered this idea that the NIH has been on top of this all along. One of the folks I talked with, Dr. Bob Seder– he is one of the principal investigators there and has been active with the Moderna vaccine team– he has done some testing, and I’ll let him explain it.

DR. BOB SEDER: Back in March, we had kind of projected this already. So we had animals that we had vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine back in the fall for the express purpose of looking at immune responses over a long period of time.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah, so they were looking at animal models way back, understanding they would need to do this later on.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah, they were looking at model animals back in the fall, and they knew and anticipated that they would need to look not only at the short term effects of the vaccines, but the long term effects. And when he said that to us, I sort of paused and thought to myself, of course. We’ve had vaccines around for ages, and of course the scientists are worried about the long term efficacy, the long term strength of these vaccines. And of course, these brilliant scientists who have spent their whole lives studying vaccines and working as public servants, were already thinking ahead of what the general public would think.

So once he said that, I was sort of like, yeah, they had set animals on the shelf, so to speak, to look at the long term effects of whether the vaccines would work or not. And in looking at that, they would be asking, well, do we need a boost? Because we’ve had to boost other vaccines in the past. And when you think about it that way, it’s sort of like, huh, there’s no surprises here for them. And indeed what they found with their animal models was really good response with the antibodies once they did boost.

IRA FLATOW: So how did the President get out ahead of the regulatory committees on this? Did he listen to the NIH, and then here come the FDA and CDC and he’s sort of trapped now?

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Well, the President has this group, the COVID-19 task force that he’s put together. And so Biden’s announcement in August came after talking with that White House COVID-19 task force. That includes Jeff Zients is the leader of that, he kind of organizes it. It includes Dr. Fauci, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler, and current FDA and CDC leaders.

So that group of folks, they’ve been talking for months about the data that they’re seeing coming in, the research. They talked to the NIH, they talked to the companies, they’re looking at every aspect of the research. And notably, Dr. Fauci told us that he meets with Biden on a weekly basis, and we confirmed that Fauci and others in those top White House meetings heard from the NIH scientist as well in their own meetings about the research on boosters.

And so when you take that all together and you think, this group of leaders that Biden has appointed as a task force– he’s listening to them. And these leaders were convinced that they wanted to go out ahead of the Delta variant after they heard from the NIH, they heard from the corporations, they were watching Israel, and they made their call and hoped for the approval process to keep up.

IRA FLATOW: Arthur, so what’s the calculation that these advisory committees are making here? Where is the balance? They must be walking a line somewhere here.

ARTHUR ALLEN: I think that in the face of public skepticism or leariness of getting another shot, and the fact that all these vaccines could clearly do a lot of good in poor countries, they don’t want to be in the position of recommending vaccines unless they really think they’re necessary. And especially if they cause additional serious side effects like myocarditis which has been reported mainly in younger men after the second mRNA vaccine, whether Pfizer or Moderna. And so I think it’s really unlikely that we’re going to see any of these events once boosters start being given out, but we don’t have that much data yet.

And even the data from Israel, the younger people were the last to get the boosters so we haven’t seen a huge amount of data from them as to whether the levels of myocarditis might be higher, theoretically. And so these committees are weighing risks and benefits for the public, and the research isn’t really totally there yet that satisfies our knowledge of either. Even though– as Sarah Jane was pointing out with the woman she talked to– on a personal level it’s pretty easy to see people deciding, yeah, it is time. I’d like to have some more protection.

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday from WNYC Studios. And so the President and the NIH already sort of throwing their weight behind this. Does this make it look like a political decision by Dr. Fauci here?

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah, it really does feel like that. Whether the NIH and the President like it or not, it does feel like a political decision because it’s coming from these top officials as opposed to the agencies themselves. But I don’t want to minimize the influence of the pharmaceutical companies here. Even before Biden’s announcement you heard Pfizer’s Albert Bourla coming out much earlier this summer talking about the waning immunity, and beginning to push for boosters. And then we’ve talked about Israel and what they saw there.

Fauci, he told us that in his mind, the sooner you get the boosters out, the better if you want to prevent people from getting sick in general. But he also really drove home the point that he wanted the decision to not be– the decision just isn’t one guy, or one group. It needs to be done sort of the American way.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI: Let’s make sure we do it with the official process. And the official process is the FDA with their VRBPAC and all the things that you do. And if they say, we don’t think there’s enough data to do a booster, then so be it. It’ll be that way. I think that would be a mistake, to be honest with you, but nonetheless we want to do it by the proper procedure.

IRA FLATOW: So it sounds like he thinks, let’s go by the book, even though I think you may be making a mistake and not bringing the boosters out fast enough.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Yeah.

ARTHUR ALLEN: You could see at the FDA meeting that there was this fairly open breach between the head of the biologics division at FDA, and the person who’s directly under him, Marion Gruber, who was in charge of vaccines. She obviously was more conservative and cautious than he was. He was going for full approval of boosters for everyone, which was, I assume Pfizer must have thought that he was going to have the final word.

IRA FLATOW: So let’s try to wrap this up and talk about where we go from here. What should we be expecting in the weeks ahead? Would it be fair to say that people over 65, and maybe under 65, will be going out and getting boosters on their own?

ARTHUR ALLEN: Without a doubt. I think that you’re already seeing people going out and get boosters on their own. I think that they trust the idea that the companies have said that the boosters are needed because of waning efficacy, and they trust the idea that Fauci has said boosters are needed. I think they’ll be going out and getting them on their own.

IRA FLATOW: And what about the official position? Will we be expecting that to keep shifting?

ARTHUR ALLEN: I mean, I think this week Johnson & Johnson reported that the booster shot has the potential to give people really excellent protection. Moderna is expected to release similar data soon. And then there’s all this pharma industry pressure to get third doses. And I’m kind of wondering whether these committees are going to meet again for each of these vaccines, or are they going to– is it possible that they might meet again to reconsider broadening their recommendation in terms of who should get vaccinated. It really depends, obviously, on the data that we’re seeing from the ground and from hospitals. I think they’re going to be very responsive to that.

IRA FLATOW: Well, that’s a good place to end, folks. Thank you for, really, an enlightening discussion.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE: Thank you, Ira.

ARTHUR ALLEN: Thank you, Ira.

IRA FLATOW: You’re welcome. Sarah Jane Tribble, Senior Correspondent for Kaiser Health News. Arthur Allen is an editor at KHN, and also author of the book Vaccine– The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesavers. And you can read their article on the booster story, it’s at sciencefriday.com/boosters.

One last thing– our book club kicks off next week. This fall, we’re reading Rising– Dispatches From the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush. We’ll be talking about wetlands, floodplains, and the communities fighting back against sea level rise. This is a very relevant discussion these days, so join us for live discussions, scientists interviews, and more. Information, of course, is up on our website, sciencefriday.com/bookclub.

Charles Bergquist is our director. Our producers are Christie Taylor and Kathleen Davis. John Dankosky is our news director. BJ Leiderman composed our theme music. And of course if you missed any part of the program or you’d like to hear it again, subscribe to our podcast. Or ask your smart speakers, now, anywhere in the house to play Science Friday.

We’ll see you next week. Have a great weekend. I’m Ira Flatow.

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