The Bivalent Booster Boondoggle
Washington spends billions on shots nobody wants.
The public-health bureaucracy is adopting yet another excessive vaccination policy. On Oct. 12 the Food and Drug Administration authorized bivalent Covid-19 boosters from Pfizer and Moderna for use in children as young as 5 and 6, respectively. The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccines for children 5 to 11. Neither shot is likely to find many takers, but that won’t stop the Biden administration from wasting billions of dollars buying them.
Since Covid shots first became available, the federal government has purchased and distributed them instead of relying on the market to match supply with demand. The result has been colossal waste. Between December 2020 and mid-May 2022, the U.S. wasted 82.1 million doses. Some expired on pharmacy shelves before they could be used; others were discarded after remaining unclaimed in opened multidose vials.
The FDA authorized bivalent vaccines at the end of August for people who had received their primary dose series or their most recent booster shot at least two months prior. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices ratified the recommendation, despite concerns among some members that the vaccines didn’t have enough testing on human subjects and that two months wasn’t long enough between shots. The Biden administration announced on Sept. 8 that it had secured 170 million of the updated doses. It is still seeking an additional $22 billion from Congress to buy more.
Only 19.4 million Americans have received bivalent boosters to date—only 8.6% of the number who completed their primary two-dose vaccine series. The reason for low demand is simple. People respond to risk. Daily new Covid cases have been declining for three months. Daily deaths with Covid have been low and stable since May. Unsurprisingly, the number of vaccines administered daily has fallen from its latest peak in December 2021, when Omicron was surging, and has remained low ever since.
Demand for bivalent vaccines will be even weaker for children, whose risk of severe Covid is extremely low. As of Oct. 19, only 31.6% of 5- to 11-year-olds had completed the primary vaccine series. That means more than two-thirds of American children in this age range aren’t even eligible for the bivalent booster. And some parents remain wary of the bivalent vaccine’s evolving safety profile.
Read the full article at The Wall Street Journal.