Local health leaders share thoughts on booster shots after FDA advisory

Posted at 10:23 PM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 23:23:50-04

MILWAUKEE — Hayat Pharmacy CEO, Hashim Zaibak, says he turns down people all the time looking for a booster.

“And I give them the same answer: I wish i could," said Zaibak, who runs the chain of pharmacies across Southeast Wisconsin.

He’s been following federal guidelines on who should receive a Pfizer booster. The FDA's new guidance-- announced Friday by an advisory panel -- is that only people over 65 should receive one. That's in addition to cancer patients and certain other people with weakened immune systems who have been approved for weeks.

For everyone else, boosters need to wait.

“If you’re discouraged about this decision or disappointed about this decision, be patient. I am sure that the third dose is coming," Zaibak said.

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It's unclear when that may be. The FDA panel's decision is not binding. But pharmacies like Hayat, which offer Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, follow the advice of the FDA and CDC on vaccine distribution.

“Immunity drops over time, and most people who come and have breakthrough infections today -- they’ve had their second vaccines for months," said Zaibak.

And that’s why, he says, he's waiting for his own booster, another layer of protection. Until then, he's offering the protection he can to the community: first and second doses of Pfizer and Moderna and the single does of Johnson & Johnson.

In it's decision not to recommend boosters for the public, the FDA panel expressed doubt a third shot or booster could bring the pandemic under control.

“The focus should be making those vaccines available to those unvaccinated,” said Kim Litwack, dean of the College of Nursing at UW-Milwaukee.

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She says there's not enough data yet to show a booster is necessary for anyone who's not elderly or high risk.

“So rather than feeling like you need that little bit extra, go to sleep at night knowing that you have protected yourself against serious disease, against hospitalization and death," said Litwack.

And, she said, encourage anyone you know who’s not vaccinated to get vaccinated.

The FDA's panel goes against Pfizer's push for boosters for the general public. And Hashim Zaibak believes that the FDA was willing to tell Pfizer no to a third shot, should give people confidence in the process.

“There are people looking at what’s scientific today, and these decisions are not made by the CEOs of these companies. These decisions are made by scientists," he said.

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