Only some people are getting them right away, but it's likely that everyone will be eligible whether they're fully needed or not.
September 22, 2021
An FDA advisory panel voted against COVID booster shots for the general public. Instead, the group recommended that people over age 65 and those with compromised immune systems get the shots. The recommendation is not binding — the FDA could decide to authorize shots for everyone — but t’s likely that in the short-term, that’s not what happens.
Maxx Chatsko has spoken many times on “7investing Now” about why he did not think we needed boosters, at least right now. He joined Dan Kline on the Sept. 20 edition of the program to explain what the latest news means and why we might see boosters get authorized anyways, even if they’re not precisely needed by most people.
The question of boosters becomes more tricky when you consider that we’re somewhat close to heading into the holiday season. With the Delta variant still leading to high rates of infection, booster shots could give vaccinated people more confidence when it comes to holiday travel. Making them available could be a boost to the economy even if they’re not technically called for using strict medical standards.
Maxx also discusses some other treatments that are in the pipeline and the reality that there’s nothing stopping people from getting a third shot right now (though it would technically be violating the rules). It’s a complicated problem with a potential deep impact on the economy that does not necessarily have a clear answer since both science and politics are involved.
A full transcript follows the video.
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Dan Kline: Our top topic today – we are going to talk about the big news on Covid boosters, then we’re going to take a look at two words you’ve been hearing a lot, and we’re going to tell you what they mean. Those two words are of course, debt ceiling. We’re going to talk about the market, the Dow is down like 700 points when last I checked. We understand that’s scary. We’re happy to take your questions, ask your questions, we will get to them later on in the show. Maxx Chatsco, it was a busy NFL Sunday, we’re only gonna make one little joke about this. But in the time I’ve been doing this introduction, Zach Wilson is somehow throwing two more interceptions.
Maxx Chatsko 0:25 I didn’t throw that many interceptions in the NFL today so..
Dan Kline 0:44 Maxx, we wish we could talk more NFL but obviously it is a big heavy market day, as we said get in your questions and your comments about the market. We know it’s scary. We will address it in the second half of the show. But Maxx, first there is big news. I had my sleeve rolled up I was ready to get a COVID booster. But that doesn’t look like the case. I was one of the first people vaccinated. I was vaccinated in mid-February, late February, but like February 20. So I was pretty ready to get my booster. But it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be happening right now. Why don’t you elaborate a little bit?
Maxx Chatsko 1:58 Yeah, so this was kind of dominating the headlines before the sky started falling this morning anyway. But last on Friday, there was an advisory committee meeting at the FDA. And they met to discuss this issue. They voted on the question of do we need boosters in the general population? They voted overwhelmingly against. 16 to 2 against, so it wasn’t even close to Dan. Then they kind of went back to the drawing board.
They drafted another question. And they said, Hey, do we need this specifically, this is all for the Pfizer vaccine too, to point out, not for Moderna, Johnson and Johnson. And they said, should we allow boosters in those who are 65 and older, those who are immunocompromised, those who might be in certain high-risk jobs, and they voted overwhelmingly in favor for that population. So the news here is that an FDA advisory committee said, Hey, you know what they voted against vaccinations for the general population. Of course, the FDA, this is not the FDA is formal recommendations. So they tend to follow what the committees say, they don’t always do it. So this is not like the foremost is not what the FDA is decided this is just kind of like the, you know, the pretense to that.
Dan Kline 3:07 So they’re recommending against boosters, which is actually something you’ve been saying all along. So besides taking a little bit of a bow, because you have been saying this, from a medical point of view, and I know you’re not a doctor, but you do have an advanced degree and you’re knowledgeable in the space. What’s the logic behind delaying boosters here and feel free to take your bow for being right all along?
Maxx Chatsko 3:28 So for months, I was saying, Oh, you know what, we probably don’t need boosters. And I kind of was pounding the table about that for a while. And then last month, or the Biden administration came out and said, everyone’s gonna get boosters, we’re gonna put them in the drinking water. They didn’t say that. So the show last month, I was like, Okay, I was wrong. And now maybe I was wrong about being wrong. But so the reason, though, that I thought we probably don’t need boosters for the general population is due to how vaccines work, right? So when you get a vaccine, you’re priming your immune system to recognize, you know, that virus, that antigen, it’s called. And, you know, we’ve heard a lot in articles and so forth, headlines about antibodies, do you have antibodies? How quickly do your antibody levels decline?
And that’s true, right, when you have a neutralizing antibody, it’s going to latch on to the virus if you encounter it, and then you won’t get sick or as sick. So that’s a good thing. That’s kind of the point of vaccines. That’s only part of the equation. You know, when you get a vaccine, you’re actually, you know, priming your immune system in a way that’s you’re priming something called T cells and B cells. So that’s where your immune memory actually comes from. And those cells are responsible for making neutralizing antibodies in the first place. So you know, over time, if your body’s pumping out high levels of neutralizing antibodies, eventually if you don’t encounter the virus, your immune system is going to say, okay, we’re wasting some resources here, you know, let’s dial it back. And so we could detect that declining level of neutralizing antibodies, but that doesn’t mean you’ve lost protection, because you still have memory in T cells and B cells.
So basically, you know, if a year after you’re vaccinated, you don’t really have high levels of neutralizing antibodies we can detect, but you did encounter the virus, your body would probably ramp up production of neutralizing antibodies. So we don’t need boosters every six months, we might not need them every year. And specifically in the general population, vaccines work. I mean, they’re they’re protecting people from hospitalization and death. Those are kind of the two metrics that matter right now. So at this stage, in the pandemic, we should focus on getting everybody vaccinated who can and right now really, the focus should be children who still aren’t eligible for vaccines.
Dan Kline 5:31 That looks like it might change. We saw some positive data on that today. But we’re not going to go too much into that. So we’ve seen the economy, one of the struggles, and we’re going to talk about the stock market. And again, we would love your questions and comments, you’re being very quiet out there, 7investing nation. But one of the things we’ve heard a lot as well, the Delta variant, and I’ve seen it. Tourism to Florida has slowed down. Now, obviously, we’ve been a very high rate of cases here. But theoretically Maxx, so I’m doubly vaccinated. Everyone in my family is, statistically, if I go out somewhere, I am – it’s possible I’ll get a breakthrough case.
But it’s not very likely. And I’m basing this on some of the studies out of Israel, and I’m only 47 I’m not 65, I’m not very likely to get a serious case, a case that causes hospitalization or even really makes me particularly sick. Is this a case where maybe we’re overreacting from an economic point of view and people are and I know a lot of people who are fully vaccinated just aren’t willing to travel or go out? And or, you know, whatever. They’re still like wiping down their groceries and things like that. I know, that was a long question. So answer whatever part of it you’re like.
Maxx Chatsko 6:39 Yes. So you know, you brought this up last month, when I said, Hey, I was wrong about boosters, we’re gonna get them. So I came at it from a scientific perspective, I didn’t see that maybe the government would want to approve these anyway. And you brought up the point that, you know, this is kind of like insurance, right? Having boosters available, even if we don’t really need them from a scientific standpoint, or an immunity standpoint, going into the winter. I mean, it’s colder, air is drier, it’s easier to spread respiratory illnesses, people are traveling people are you know, there’s a lot of holidays. So you said, hey, it’s probably a good idea to have this insurance in place, right? Vaccines are available boosters are available if we need them. So if things went sideways, or a new variant came out, or cases started rising, it’s so much more calming effect, if we had boosters available, reduces a lot of, you know, removes some uncertainty from the economy from society. So that is a pretty good point.
And in fact, even though the FDA vote was overwhelming against boosters in the general population, I actually think we’re probably going to get boosters anyway. So this is one of those cases where I think the FDA is formal decision. Eventually, maybe it’s supposed to decide this week, maybe not this week, but eventually, I think it’s going to approve boosters for everybody. And again, it’s kind of what you were saying it’s just about the having that insurance in place. It’s not just from the scientific standpoint, some of this might even get a little bit political. You know, we’re not really going to talk about that. But actually, the two leading vaccine, authorities, like the two leading officials at the FDA are actually resigning, they’re leaving, and I don’t think it’s related to this.
But on their way out, one of them actually called this Adcom meeting, kind of as like, you know, thumbing their nose at the FDA maybe for brushing this decision. So they wanted people to go on the record, scientists go on the record and say, you know, do you support boosters for the general population? So they got this vote against, but I think the people in charge are still probably going to approve it anyway.
Dan Kline 8:38 So Maxx, you know, I travel a lot. Is there a harm like, you know, if I decide, Okay, I’m gonna be at about, you know, eight months past my shot, or whatever it is, and you know, in a few months, maybe a booster is not the worst idea for me. Is there a harm to it? Besides the potential for increased side effects, which I think we’ve covered before?
Maxx Chatsko 8:59 I haven’t seen any of the data to be fair, Dan, I think that might be really the only concern is some of the side effects. I mean, they’re overwhelmingly safe and effective. So if you did get a booster, it would boost your immunity to above levels that you got after your second shot. So it’s not like you’re returning to where you were before, you would actually have several times higher immunity in terms of your immune activity, neutralizing antibodies and so forth. But you know, maybe there’s some increased risk slightly from maybe some of those heart conditions that we saw and an infinitesimally small portion of individuals. So I haven’t seen the data. I don’t know, but overwhelmingly, it should be pretty safe.
Dan Kline 9:36 Can I ask a dumb question? Sure. What stops someone from getting a booster because I could walk in right now to the CVS and the Target? That’s a half-mile from me, say, hey, I’ve never had a shot and admittedly it wouldn’t show up on my card, though. I have heard of places that are that are doing them and putting them on the card even though that that’s not necessarily approved. Nothing stops me from going out and getting a third shot, right?
Maxx Chatsko 9:58 Yeah, that’s true. There’s nothing stopping anyone you get a fourth shot, you can get 10.
Dan Kline 10:03 Don’t, don’t do that without advice of your doctor for first of all.
Maxx Chatsko 10:09 Exactly. Yeah, we’re not advocating for that. But yeah, that’s true. Anybody can get one. And look, I mean, we’ve said this too, at this point in the pandemic, I think everyone’s kind of made up their mind, right? We have that loud vocal minority, who’s like, never gonna get a vaccine. We have people who are being super careful, like you said, to still like washing vegetables and all that, or whatever they’re doing.
Dan Kline 10:29 We still have friends who haven’t had a haircut and like 19 months.
Maxx Chatsko 10:34 Everyone I interviewed for our podcast is avoiding barbers too, for some reason. But yeah, so there’s always like, I think people have made up their minds, right, having boosters available for everyone doesn’t mean, suddenly, 300 million more Americans are going to get boosters. I think everyone’s kind of already made their decisions already.
Dan Kline 10:48 That I will I will say, I want to be super immune, because I intend to go all sorts of places I was on a cruise ship last week. I intend to do that again in a few weeks. So you know, I am out there spreading the gospel of 7investing. And we will get to what is going on in the market momentarily. But I have one last question for Maxx, one final question on not boosters, exactly. But on COVID-19, it’s, are there any other COVID drugs, treatments, vaccines, things we need to know about? That might change the trajectory of what hasn’t been a great 18 months for the United States?
Maxx Chatsko 11:23 Yeah, well, of course, we have these things called vaccines, they work pretty well. In terms of other treatments. There’s some interesting things in the industry pipeline, everyone’s kind of throwing everything they can at it. Of course, there’s always some antibody cocktails that are in the works. And they’re effective, but they’re also very expensive to manufacture. They can only be administered through an IV infusion, that usually takes at least an hour to go to a special place that’s equipped with that type of infrastructure to administer it in that way. So it’s not very practical, right? I mean, also costs a lot of money 10s of 1000s of dollars or more, a vaccine, a single dose of vaccines, like less than $10, all-around costs.
So pretty effective. There’s there’s some interesting things though, there’s some oral antivirals that are in the works and has shown to be somewhat effective, at least in early trials. I forget the companies that are working on that, but there was a major acquisition or two for some of these companies recently after the pandemic started. So you know, that would be easier if you did get sick, you could just go to the you know, CVS or wherever, and get some prescription for a very simple pill you would take for so many days while you’re sick. And it would lessen the viral load and maybe help you to avoid the worst-case outcome. So that’s probably the next major thing that’s going to dominate headlines in terms of treatments other than vaccines. So yeah, I mean, you know, we’re slowly kind of putting it behind us as best we can.
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