By Dylan Housman
President Joe Biden burned more than $5 billion in taxpayer funds on new COVID-19 shots hardly anyone wants.
The White House made the decision earlier in 2022 — before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even authorized the new, variant-specific bivalent COVID-19 boosters — to purchase more than $5 billion worth of them from Pfizer and Moderna. Now, more than a month after the shots became available, only about 3% of eligible Americans have gotten one.
There are roughly 275 million Americans aged 12 and older, the age group eligible for one or both of the new boosters. Fewer than 8 million have boosted themselves since Sep. 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This leaves over 160 million doses ordered by the Biden administration sitting on the sidelines, waiting for demand to meet supply.
Thirty-six million of the doses have been delivered to states so far, according to the CDC. During the initial vaccine rollout in the U.S., a number of doses went bad due to lack of demand or mismanagement in states, while others were donated to foreign countries when they weren’t being used in the U.S.
Imagine: You push out two senior FDA officials because you insist on the same booster strategy for a 12-year-old as an 82-year-old
Then you rush a bivalent booster without human data saying randomized trials take too long
And then no one wants ithttps://t.co/3dnzujRPQm
— Vinay Prasad MD MPH (@VPrasadMDMPH) October 3, 2022
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) did not respond to questions from the Daily Caller about whether or not the administration overestimated what the demand would be for the shots. HHS also didn’t address how long the doses could last before expiring, and at what point doses would have to be discarded or donated to other countries if left unused.
Pfizer and Moderna’s bivalent booster doses were designed to target newly-emerged COVID-19 variants, namely the Omicron variant, better than the original vaccines are able to. Public health officials have stressed the importance of getting as many booster doses into Americans’ arms as possible before the winter, when surges in coronavirus cases and deaths typically occur — both before and after vaccines were available.
Biden’s health team fast-tracked the authorization and distribution of the vaccines for this very reason. The $5 billion order for shots was placed before the FDA authorized the jabs, while the agency completed that process without human trials for the new boosters — only rodent trials. The FDA claimed that the shots were similar enough to the initial formulations, which the agency ruled to be safe and effective in human trials. Thus it did not require new human trials before authorization.
A lack of demand for the new boosters could have been predicted based on recent trends in vaccination rates. An overwhelming majority of Americans got their first COVID-19 shot — more than 90% of adults got the first dose, according to the CDC. But the country’s vaccination rate plummeted as more doses were rolled out.
Only 77% of American adults completed the primary series, getting one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot or two doses of Pfizer or Moderna. 52% got the first booster dose, and only 36% of Americans aged 50 and older — those eligible for a second booster dose — got that shot.
The most recent group to become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines are children under five years old. Few parents have rushed out to have their toddlers jabbed for a virus that poses almost no threat to them. Just 1.3 million of those children have been vaccinated out of 23 million. (RELATED: HHS Confirms Biden Will Keep COVID Emergency In Place Despite Declaring Pandemic Over)
Health officials are fighting an uphill battle, with polling showing a majority of Americans are far less concerned about the pandemic than in earlier days. Complicating matters further is Biden himself, who recently declared the pandemic to be “over” against the wishes of his own advisers.
Pfizer and Moderna continue to be winners, though. The $5 billion vaccine order from the Biden administration will just add on to already-record profits both companies have recorded since the pandemic began.