Utah’s Mitt Romney wants COVID booster shots available ASAP

CDC says studies continue, while Pfizer is expected to submit its request to the FDA in August.

(Stefani Reynolds | The New York Times) Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, questions Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in Washington on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.

Sen. Mitt Romney is frustrated that some in Israel can get a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, but people in the United States cannot.

He pressed national health leaders on the availability of booster shots during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.

“Why should we not allow people who are elderly or have other compromised conditions to be able to get that booster?” Romney asked. “We have people who want to get that booster, and I’m hearing that from people who are at risk and concerned.”

And he sure sounded like he wanted to get a third injection.

“There are a number of us that would get in line to get a booster,” he said.

Romney’s concerns come at a time when infections are rising nationwide because of the more contagious Delta variant, which makes up 83% of new cases.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told senators the vaccines remain effective against all known variants.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the government is attempting to determine how quickly the effectiveness of the vaccines wanes over time. If it drops from around 93% efficacy into the 80s, then he said an extra shot would be warranted.

“Those studies are ongoing now,” he said.

So Romney won’t be able to get that booster for at least a few months.

For that to happen, the Food and Drug Administration would have to issue another emergency authorization specifically for booster shots. Pfizer has announced it would ask the FDA for such an authorization in August.

FDA acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock told Romney that Pfizer plans to submit its own internal data as well as stats from Israel, but she remained noncommittal.

“The FDA will be looking at that,” she said.

“I’m sure you will,” Romney responded. “I don’t like the time frame, frankly, given the fact that this is being done elsewhere.”

Israel announced July 11 that it would offer booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine to adults with weakened immune systems. It also was considering offering a third shot to all adults.

Health officials in the U.S. are continuing to focus efforts on getting more people vaccinated. In Utah, 66.5% of all adults have received at least one dose, and about 50.9% of all the state’s residents.