HHS officials tells Congress COVID-19 booster vaccine shot could be needed

COVID-19 Vaccine/Getty Images
The federal government has enough funding to pay for a second round of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots if they are needed, a top Department of Health and Human Services official told Congress. (Bill Oxford/Getty Images)

A booster shot of COVID-19 vaccination could be needed to help protect Americans from the virus, a top Biden administration official said.

“The increased age, waning antibodies over time and new variants increase the probability that booster doses may be needed,” said David Kessler, M.D., chief science officer of COVID response for the Department of Health and Human Services, during a Senate hearing Tuesday.

Kessler added that the federal government is planning to have doses available for the American people if a booster shot is necessary.

But how those doses will be administered remains unclear. Kessler said that the government is gathering data on whether Americans need to get a booster shot of the same vaccine they originally got or if they can mix or match.

“For planning purposes, the simplest and safest assumption is that it may be for at least the short term that an analogous boost with the same type of vaccine makes the most sense,” Kessler said.

He added that the federal government is continuing to deal with the same drug companies that are making COVID-19 vaccines to secure booster doses “because we want to continue with the safety and efficacy that we have seen in those vaccines. Down the road that may change as we get other protein-based vaccines.”

If a booster shot is needed, it remains unclear when Americans will need to get it. Some senators also asked Kessler about continued access to the vaccine and how much it will cost.

“It’s going to be really critical that these vaccines remain successful and that their price reflects the large investments American taxpayers made in the research and technology,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.

Kessler responded that the federal government has enough funding to purchase the next round of doses if a booster is necessary. This ensures that the next round of vaccines will be free.

“Beyond 2022 I look to your guidance and colleagues on what point do you transition back to a commercial market,” he said. “For this coming round, we will proceed as we have proceeded.”