Head of Texas Biomedical Research Institute: boosters not as important as full vaccination

Dr. Larry Schlesinger talks with KSAT about FDA advisory committee’s booster recommendations

SAN ANTONIO – A committee of outside experts for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave a split recommendation on the use of booster shots for the Pfizer vaccine on Friday.

However, the head of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, which helped to develop that vaccine, says booster shots aren’t as important as getting people fully vaccinated in the first place.

The FDA’s advisory panel recommended the use of booster shots to people 65 and older or who have a high-risk of severe illness, but not to the general population of people 16 years or older.

Dr. Larry Schlesinger, president and CEO of Texas Biomedical Research Institute, says he was not surprised by the committee’s decision against widespread booster shots.

“I think that the decision by the advisory panel suggests more data are necessary for there -- for them to vote affirmative on this. So I think this is good news to the public because it tells you that there continues to be a lot of discussion by content experts about what is in the best interest of the public from a safety and efficacy standpoint,” Schlesinger said.

However, in a conversation with KSAT before the committee made its recommendations, Schlesinger said getting more people vaccinated was a bigger issue, noting there’s a large part of the United States that hasn’t been even partially vaccinated. Worldwide, it’s even larger.

“So although boosters will be quite important - we’ll need to evaluate them to help us protect those that are vaccinated - let’s vaccinate more people. That is the way that we’re going to get over this pandemic,” Schlesinger said.

“The data are so clear on the increased risk of serious infection, hospitalization and death for unvaccinated. Very clear -- the clearest I’ve ever seen since I’ve been doing this. So the data are so robust for people to consider this vaccine. And the vaccine now has been given - the approved vaccines - to approximately two billion people. They are very safe and effectivel and they continue to be effective against all the variants.”

About the Author:

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.