About 15.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the US, but only 4.5 million people have received their first doses, the CDC reported last week.
‘We agree that there is a lag. We’ll work with the states,’ said Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the federal Operation Warp Speed vaccination effort. To help expedite vaccinations, the US might start giving half-doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine to people aged 18 to 55, which could make the vaccine available to twice as many people in that age group, Slaoui said.
The US Food and Drug Administration will meet this week to consider that possibility, Slaoui said. The decision to cut the current 100-microgram dose in half, with another half-dose 28 days later, is ultimately up to the FDA, Slaoui told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Binding and neutralizing antibody responses were similar among participants under age 55 who received either 100-microgram or 50-microgram doses, Slaoui said, citing earlier data.
While an FDA briefing document last month also mentions these ‘comparable’ immune responses from Moderna’s study, the full data has not yet been published. Slaoui said he’s ‘not sure it holds for Pfizer,’ whose vaccine dose is 30 micrograms, noting that conversation has yet to happen. Similar to the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is intended to come in two doses, spaced several weeks apart. Not everyone likes the notion of cutting vaccine doses in half. Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, told CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen that giving half-doses of the vaccine is ‘a terrible idea.’
‘There’s no data on efficacy of a half dose. If you use a half dose, you’re just making it up. You’re just hoping that you’re right,’ said Offit, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pennsylvania. ‘Why would you dare to make up something when you don’t know whether or not it works?’ Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, said he does not agree with the idea. ‘We have about 13 million doses that have been shipped out to the states, and only barely 4 million doses that have gone into arms. So the bottleneck is not the lack of availability of vaccine. The bottleneck is actually the logistics of vaccinating people in this country.’
It’s difficult enough to get some patients on board with getting a vaccine, he said. Going against the recommended dosing could hurt patients’ confidence. ‘When I see people in clinic, I talk about the vaccine every single day. I’m trying to reduce vaccine hesitancy,’ Reiner said Monday. ‘And the strongest weapon I have is the data. I can tell people that these two vaccines have been studied in 70,000 people — more than 70,000 people — in this two-dose strategy. And when given that way, they’re both 95% effective, and basically no one gets critically ill if you get this vaccine… Once you break from the data, I can no longer say that’ (WKTV).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: HANS PENNINK/AP