Dr. Rai gives update on COVID-19 boosters, pediatric vaccinations

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 7:31 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The FDA is set to review findings on Pfizer’s data for a COVID-19 booster shot. Once that is approved, local health care organizations will open up appointments to those who are eligible.

Prevea Health President & CEO Dr. Ashok Rai joined us on Action 2 News This Morning to talk about the timeline for those boosters and possible approval of pediatric shots.


“Right now I’d say as far as we’re doing in Green Bay and across the state of Wisconsin, we’re pretty steady in a bad area. So we have significant hospitalizations in Northeast Wisconsin and throughout the state. We have a significant number of positive patients every week. But what is, in a sense of good news, is that rate of rise that was happening with the positivity seems to have flattened out a little bit. Not great, because we’re flattening out in a bad area, and hopefully we’ll start to see a downturn, but right now at least that rate of rise is not as fast as it used to be.”


“Seventeen and under, and we kind of broke it up into different age groups. We looked at this time last year--so let’s say two weeks into school starting last year and two weeks into school starting this year--and we looked at the number of children who turned positive, and it’s doubled, unfortunately, from last year to this year. When we looked at the age breakdown, it was pretty significant in those under the age of 12, and then when you look at age of 12-17, it’s actually flat from last year. The interesting part is 12-17, about 50-51 percent are vaccinated in our area, which is a great number. It kind of shows vaccines work in holding that. When we get to vaccinate more and more of the population, we’ll have less and less of that positivity.”


“There’s a lot of news and I think this is the big booster week. Friday, the VRBPAC committee of the FDA would meet. They will go through all of the data that Pfizer has submitted. It’s really important when we’re talking about boosters, that we have to talk about the boosters by separate drug. So let’s talk about Pfizer, because they’re the only one who has submitted. They’ve submitted a ton of data. That will be reviewed all day long. If the FDA says boosters are good, they’re safe, and that they work and they should be used at this time, those are some really important questions that we don’t have answers to yet. Hopefully we’ll get those by Friday. Then the CDC committee, the ASIP committee, will meet maybe even Saturday, maybe Monday, and then the approval process will kind of cascade from there as it has. So when you start thinking about when we’ll start giving boosters, it really depends on what the CDC and the state Department of Health Services decide who should get them when. Is it health care workers? Is it elderly? Is it those who are immune compromised that maybe didn’t fall into that first category of boosters? We will learn that and then we will start scheduling. So as far as scheduling boosters go, if all of that happened on time, probably that last week of September at the earliest.”


“The 5-11 is, I think, the biggest category, and as we saw from our own data, if we could vaccinate 5-11, we could bring that positivity down significantly. So we’re all wanting to do that, but you want to do it safely, and you want to do it based on the science and the data. That data has now been collected, once again by Pfizer, still being collected by Moderna, and then that will be submitted to the FDA and one of those VRBPAC meetings will be scheduled. That hasn’t been scheduled yet. So if you started to look at the timeline we just walked through for adult boosters, and think about the data being submitted, the meetings being scheduled, at best--and we’re hoping for always at best--by the end of the October we could start to see pediatric vaccinations.”


“I think it’s important not to get hung up on just one aspect of the six-point plan. Yes, the vaccine requirements are important, and anything to get more people vaccinated I’m going to be in favor of. But it also has a testing requirement that could be in lieu of vaccine. That testing requirement’s really important when you think about it. They mentioned once a week. For it to really work, we need more than once a week. Serial testing is better, especially when you spread them out, like 72 hours. But our testing infrastructure, that’s probably one of the most important thing sin the six-point plan. It’s about three-to-four months late. We wish we would have seen that earlier, with the federal government saying, ‘we need to ramp up testing.’

“We’ve said this since the beginning of the pandemic that one of the ways out, outside of vaccine, was really getting a better testing infrastructure. Hopefully this plan will finally get that to us. Again, more in-home testing, more in-school testing, more at-work testing, and vaccination, and we can start to bring those numbers down.”

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