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CDC goes it alone with universal Covid booster recommendation

Why is America’s CDC going against European and WHO guidelines? Credit: Getty

September 15, 2023 - 2:15pm

Earlier this week a US CDC panel of advisers voted 13-1 to recommend new Covid vaccine boosters for all people over 6 months of age, contradicting European and WHO guidelines that focus on high-risk groups. 

A marketing campaign accompanied the US decision. Dr. Ashish Jha, previous White House Covid coordinator, claimed that the new booster shot will help those jabbed stay in school or work, slow transmission to Grandma, and prevent long Covid, calling the decision “a no-brainer”. A press conference with senior Canadian public health authorities, socially distanced with masks, also promoted the new universal booster recommendation.

In contrast, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo came under fire from Politico, the Washington Post and others for contradicting the new CDC and FDA’s universal recommendation. Ladapo claimed that “with the amount of immunity that’s in the community […] and with the questions we have about safety and about effectiveness”, the vaccine would not be “a good decision for young people and for people who are not at high risk at this point in the pandemic”.

Yet DeSantis’s stance echoes those from other countries, such as the UK and Sweden, that have recently removed universal recommendations for the 2023-24 season for those under 65 years old. Eligibility extends to being in a clinical risk group, being a frontline healthcare worker or a household contact of a high-risk person. 

While Covid vaccine mandates have largely been removed in the US, they continue in an estimated 7% of US universities, as well as some healthcare facilities and workplaces. Universal recommendations may provide justification for maintaining or expanding them this autumn. 

The new Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are formulated to the XBB.1.5 Omicron variant, a decision made back in June by the FDA. However recent US data shows that only 3% of infections are now from this particular variant (although over 50% remain from the XBB-lineage), so it is unclear how effective the new booster will really be. A report this year by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) estimated an overall 37% vaccine effectiveness rate for the previous bivalent Covid booster, dropping to 20% by month four. However, this analysis was not stratified by risk group or by age.

The question of annual Covid shots is far from settled, given that the effectiveness of flu vaccines in preventing mortality and hospitalisations continues to be debated. A CDC study from the 2021-22 winter season found that the flu vaccine “did not reduce the risk for outpatient respiratory illness”. 

Some RCT studies have not found any impact on mortality or hospitalisations from seasonal influenza vaccination in the elderly, which is universally recommended. A re-analysis of RCT data concluded that “the impression that unvaccinated healthcare workers place their patients at great influenza peril is exaggerated.”

Yet US politicians appear brazenly willing to promote Covid vaccine essentialism, all the while denying the basics of immunology and data on the benefits of prior infection and even past vaccination. On Wednesday, Governor Kathy Hochul told New Yorkers that “it doesn’t matter if you’ve already been vaccinated […] You don’t have the immunity built up over time. So as the virus evolves, our scientists and researchers and companies have to get ahead of it.”

The CDC panel’s universal recommendations continued to neglect nuanced risk-benefit assessment for a disease that is highly risk-stratified, including concerns that harm (including myocarditis) may outweigh benefits for young healthy adults and children. In the US, Dr. Paul Offit recently advised against the universal booster recommendations, for healthy people under 75 years, saying that “you can’t ask people to get a vaccine if you’re trying to prevent serious illness and there’s no clear evidence that you are at risk of serious illness.”

The universal recommendation is a particularly American brand of vaccine enthusiasm. While NHS funding pressures mean UK decisions have to be more pragmatic and evidence-based, US science policy appears more willing to exaggerate vaccine benefits and simplify public marketing. Only 17% of Americans received the previous bivalent booster, rising to 43% in those over 65 years old. UK uptake among those over 65 was much higher. This autumn, the CDC has ordered 20 million doses of paediatric Covid vaccine at a cost of $1.7 billion. Don’t be surprised if most end up in the bin.


Kevin Bardosh is a research professor and Director of Research for Collateral Global, a UK-based charity dedicated to understanding the collateral impacts of Covid policies worldwide.

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Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
10 months ago

While Covid vaccine mandates have largely been removed in the US, they continue in an estimated 7% of US universities

20 year olds: a group well known to be at risk.

D Walsh
D Walsh
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Trust the science

Andrew Henrick
Andrew Henrick
9 months ago

The continuation of a failed policy is a two edged sword. Can dogmatists really simply deny their own propaganda at this point? So they continue to force the issue, and in so doing, they remind the public of 2+ years of unchecked brutality and open injustice. It is a big gamble given the quantifiable loss of institutional trust characterizing the public today.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
9 months ago

This is Fauci being asked by his pharma friends to bring an eye back to their profits.
Nothing should surprise in a federal-corporate structure able to tolerate limitlessly depths of corruption – from outsourced gain-of-function research to the CCP’s bioweapons division, to mutilating teenagers under the guise of gender-affirming care.

M Doors
M Doors
9 months ago

Received my letter to make my appointment for a covid booster (I’m apparently high risk due to a blood condition) & flu shot – went straight into the bin.

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago

I feel like we have a broken society when people in the highest positions of trust say things that are absurd, which they know are absurd, yet we are still compelled to comply with them. It was truly disheartening to see Canada’s Federal Public Health officer engaging in more Covid fearmongering. She would be just as convincing to me ringing gongs or consulting goat entrails given her track record in the last three years.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 months ago
Reply to  Peter Johnson

The “elites” habit of saying (perhaps even believing) obviously untrue things, and insisting everyone else believe them, too, feels terrifyingly like the behavior of the Soviets…. I wish Solzhenitsyn were around to offer his critique of the past ten years of American life.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
9 months ago

Lauren Bacall ‘I need the money, honey ‘.

At this rate, if it doesn’t work, we’ll have to send round a hat for Bilbo Gates, the world’s richest ‘philanthropist ‘ .

Erik Hildinger
Erik Hildinger
9 months ago

Corporate bodies, such as governments, are often willing to do what an individual would resist doing because responsibility is dispersed.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
10 months ago

Here we go again!

Brian Cashman
Brian Cashman
9 months ago

Is this not gaslighting?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Cashman

Yes.

M Doors
M Doors
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Cashman

Not to mention that America is entering an election cycle,

Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Cashman

No they are rubbing our faces in it and mocking us – the message is “we can do anything we want – no matter how stupid – no matter how harmful – because enough of your fellow citizens are gullible and vapid enough to believe us and elect us over and over again. We know that you know we are evil – and we are just laughing at you because you can’t stop us”.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
9 months ago

It long, long since stopped being about Covid or epidemiology. It’s been about power since at least mid-summer 2020.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
9 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

That’s too simplistic by far (as is so depressingly common on here). You can’t understand anything if you resort to conspiracy theories. Groupthink, availability heuristic, and, yes, political leanings and control all play a part.

But try some obvious critical thinking: why isn’t this “power” being exerted in Europe, where some countries (eg Austria) were even more gung ho in covid restrictions and vaccine mandates than blue state America. They have quietly but very comprehensively dropped them. (Ah, no doubt the population there are already acquiescent and submissive comes the predictable retort…..!)

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

There are lots of differences between the political culture of the US and Austria… I should have thought that was obvious. At the very least, Austria has a multi-party system; whereas, the US has a deeply entrenched and highly tribalized two-party system, where any acknowledgment of error by one party is seen as undermining its credibility to the benefit of the other party. It’s a zero-sum game in the blue-state/red-state tribal politics currently operative in the US.

Last edited 9 months ago by Kirk Susong
Norman Powers
Norman Powers
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

There’s an interesting theory proposed by Eugyppius that it’s because in the US there was much more effective political pushback (like in Florida), with the result that the CDC knows it no longer speaks to half the electorate and this has “freed” it to go all-in on telling the left what it wants to hear. In Europe there was very little right wing political pushback, with the result that European health agencies still consider themselves to have something to lose and this pushes them towards some moderation.

Penelope Paris
Penelope Paris
9 months ago

This was the plan the whole time. Create a product that the whole world needs to take every year, it’s called a “cash cow.” Who wins? Power. Money. Control.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
9 months ago

If you want to understand why the US government is so intent on stuffing the entire population with drugs then read RFK’s book on Tony Fauci.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
9 months ago

Good article, brave even. The fact that flu vaccines don’t seem to work is one of those horrifying tidbits I discovered during 2021 … widely acknowledged in the literature but it’s had no impact on policy.
They even seem to make you more likely to catch the flu in some cases. Your body ends up memorizing the wrong antibodies and doesn’t adapt them properly to new variants.