Israel becomes 1st country to approve COVID-19 vaccine boosters; will the US be next?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Israel began vaccinating adults considered at risk or immunosuppressed with a third shot, or booster shot, of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday.

ABC7 News Reporter Luz Pena interviewed one of the leading scientists out of Israel about their booster shot decision.

"Our ministry of health has considered this specific sub-population of Israel," said Professor Jonathan M. Gershoni, Dept. of Cell Research and Immunology at Tel Aviv University. "This isn't to be understood that Israel has gone off on its own and decided now to administer generally a third boost."

Professor Gershoni has been on the forefront of COVID-19 research out of Israel, where over the past month, infection rates have spiked. The ministry of health reports more than 400 cases a day. Professor Gershoni says the Delta variant is one of the main concerns.

"This variant has what appears to be a much more efficient way of infecting cells. It infects more readily, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it causes more severe disease," said Professor Gershoni.

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Israel identified the immunocompromised population as the only one in need of this extra layer of protection, for now.

The question now is, will boosters be authorized in the U.S. as well? As of now, the U.S. has not authorized the need for boosters, but that could change. Monday, the White House Press Secretary confirmed the government is ready to provide boosters if needed, but there's no plan for this yet.

"We've indicated that we've purchased the number of doses we have, and indicated that we want to increase manufacturing in these facilities around the country because we want to have maximum optionality," said Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. "Including what is more effective with children under the age of 12, including if there is a booster shot."

Throughout the pandemic we've followed disability advocate Charis Hill's story.

Hill is immunocompromised and received both Moderna shots. They were checked for antibodies recently.

Luz Pena: "Are you protected at all?"

Charis Hill (They/Them): "The test results testing for antibodies to the vaccine came back as negative. So, there is no evidence that the vaccine worked at all for me, so I'm acting like I'm not vaccinated at all."

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Hill is now advocating for a booster if approved.

"One doctor even suggested asking for a different manufacturer, so if I got Moderna to ask for a booster shot with Pfizer," said Hill.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado has served on the FDA review committee and says more research is necessary to approve boosters.

"The data from the U.S. doesn't indicate that we need a booster right now," said Dr. Maldonado. "We talked to federal officials, state officials and most of our experts in the field and we are not really at that point."

One of the concerns is adverse effects to the booster.

"These people need to suppress their immune system so if you boost their immune system, will they have a return of their symptoms for which they are being treated?," explained Dr. Maldonado.


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