Medical student Forrest Boehler expounded on this edict in a piece for the Federalist. He wrote: "As a current student at an institution that is part of the AAMC, I'm disappointed that the organization is not following the science on the COVID-19 booster to guide its policy recommendations for its member institutions."
"Although the adoption of this [rule] by medical schools is optional, this document is highly influential as some schools use the form as school policy for the vaccinations required of incoming medical students."
According to Boehler, certain schools require incoming medical students to get scheduled vaccines – including the one for COVID-19. Students could seek a waiver for the COVID-19 shot, but some universities only allow exceptions based on medical reasons that align with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Released in September 2022, the bivalent COVID-19 booster was initially introduced to combat the BA2 subvariant of the more infectious B11529 omicron strain. The AAMC published an article highlighting BA2's low potential to cause hospitalization and death at the time. Despite this, the bivalent booster was added to the scheduled immunization form.
The medical student noted that CDC data has shown a consistent decline in COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates. Furthermore, only 0.6 percent of all COVID-related deaths have occurred in people aged 18 to 29 – with the majority happening before the omicron variant became dominant. Thus, Boehler questioned why the bivalent COVID-19 booster needs to be included in the immunization schedule.
Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), warned young people against getting the bivalent boosters. According to him, the injection was approved without human clinical trials being conducted. (Related: NBC reports: Young, healthy people don’t need COVID booster.)
The physician's concern centered on the lack of comparative data between the bivalent booster and the previous monovalent version. The FDA authorized the bivalent shot without clinical trials, sparking uncertainty regarding its supposed "advantages" over the previous iteration.
Offit stressed the importance of clear evidence of benefits when recommending vaccines to the public. "If you don't have that, then it's not fair to ask people to take a risk, no matter how small," he said.
Dr. Oliver Brooks, a member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, also shared Offit's sentiment. He remarked during a September 2022 panel meeting: "I really do struggle with a vaccine that has no clinical data that has been reported for humans."
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Offit disclosed that he had voted against authorizing the updated vaccine during a VRBPAC meeting. "We should be careful, however, about overselling the bivalent vaccine as something better than the existing vaccine until more data are available," he warned.
"It is unclear how a mandate for an additional bivalent booster that targets a mild form of the virus for a population largely in their 20s poses any clear benefit for those receiving it. The risks, however, are clear. We know that this vaccine has the potential to cause harm to young, healthy individuals, especially men who receive boosters," Bohler ultimately remarked.
"Considering half of all medical students are young men, why have the AAMC and medical schools decided to put this age group at risk for the known side effects of this treatment?"
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