Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
President Joe Biden's administration concedes that there is no scientific evidence to support an apparent recommendation to receive as many as six COVID-19 booster shots in a year.
After Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, a Biden appointee, wrote in a social media post on Nov. 29, 2022, that people should get vaccinated “if it’s been over 2 months since your last dose,” the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents supporting the statements.
The watchdog organization then sued after the administration didn't comply with timelines laid out in the law.
FGI asked for, among other documents: "Any scientific support relied on by Secretary Becerra when approving or issuing the tweet recommending that all Americans receive a booster shot every two months" and "any study, synopsis, or similar statement or document of scientific, academic, or government research on whether a bi-monthly booster shot will effectively prevent the transmission or susceptibility to COVID-19 and known active variants as of November 2022."
It also asked for internal communications regarding Mr. Becerra's statements.
In a new response, the government said it had no evidence to support Mr. Becerra's recommendation.
"The department reviewed 1,263 pages of potentially responsive records captured in the agency’s search for this FOIA request. After a careful review of these records, I determined the 1,263 pages were not relevant to your request," Alesia Williams, an official in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), told FGI.
"The lack of a single of a single record supporting Secretary Becerra’s bold public health recommendation for six COVID boosters a year is a startling development," Pete McGinnis, a spokesman for FGI, said in a statement.
"It is tremendously irresponsible for the government’s chief health official to fire off tweets recommending frequent injections of a new vaccine booster apparently based on no academic or scientific support," Mr. McGinnis added.
"How can the public be assured that the agency is ‘following the science’ on other important public health matters when it demonstrates such clear disregard for basic scientific integrity standards on an issue as important as COVID vaccine shots?"
The group noted that Mr. Becerra, a lawyer by training, lacks a background in health. Doctors typically lead that department.
As newer COVID-19 variants have emerged, the vaccines have performed increasingly worse. Federal officials inside HHS first cleared booster shots in 2021 due to the flagging effectiveness, and have since authorized and recommended additional shots.
In the spring of 2023, regulators had authorized, without clinical trial data, newly formulated versions of the vaccines aimed at Omicron subvariants. Federal officials had said that people should get a booster if more than two months had elapsed since their most recent shot. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said most people should only receive one additional shot, but that certain groups could receive more.
In another statement promoting vaccination, Vice President Kamala Harris claimed that a single shot would protect people from COVID-19 for an entire year. There's no evidence supporting that claim.
Mr. Becerra said the day after the initial post: “An updated COVID vaccine can help protect you from the worst outcomes of COVID. If it’s been over 2 months since your last dose, make a plan to get one now.”
He later wrote: "Time to get your updated COVID vaccine if 1) You haven’t gotten the updated vaccine yet & had the primary series or original booster 2+ months ago 2) It’s been 3+ months since you’ve had COVID If you have a big event in 2+ weeks, it’s a good time to go."
FGI said the differing messages were causing confusion and made it appear as if Mr. Becerra was, at least at one point, recommending up to six shots in a year.
HHS has declined to comment on the suit.
"The clear message from across the Administration is: Don’t wait," an HHS spokesperson previously told The Epoch Times, after being asked about Mr. Becerra's statements. "Get your free COVID-19 vaccine. It’s safe and effective. People can go to vaccines.gov to find free and easily available vaccines in their community."
New Vaccines Coming
The updated shots are expected to be rolled out in the fall.
The CDC's new director, Dr. Mandy Cohen, said recently that the agency is poised to recommend annual shots.
"We anticipate that COVID will become similar to flu shots, where it is going to be you get your annual flu shot and you get your annual COVID shot," Dr. Cohen said.
The CDC didn't respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), chairman of the U.S. Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, and other members asked the CDC (pdf) for information on the planned recommendation, noting that it would "mark a significant change in federal policy and guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccines and the way in which they are utilized."