Fox News anchor Chris Wallace pressed National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins on a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel rejecting President Joe Biden’s booster shot proposal, straight-up asking him on Sunday if the president had done the “exact opposite” of his pledge to “follow the science.”
Weeks after the administration announced plans for Americans to get a third booster shot eight months after they had received their second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, an FDA advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending the third dose of the Pfizer jab for people younger than 65. The group did unanimously approve Pfizer boosters for senior citizens and at-risk individuals.
Wallace, who had dubbed the panel’s rejection of Biden’s wide-ranging plan an “embarrassment” on Friday, hosted Collins for an interview on Fox News Sunday. And the anchor immediately grilled Collins on the panel’s decision, asking the public health expert if he now agreed with this limited booster program over what the president had previously recommended.
“I think there’s less difference between where we were in the middle of August and what the advisory committee said this past Friday,” Collins argued. “They did encourage and vote for the administration of boosters to people over 65, and those at high risk of exposure. Those of the people who would be most likely to reach that eight-month period, because that’s how we prioritized initial immunizations back in January. So I don’t think there’s huge differences here.”
Wallace shot back that the panel’s recommendation was a flat-out rebuke of Biden’s plan—which was previously scheduled to kick off on Monday—wondering aloud why the president had jumped the gun.
“Back during the campaign, he talked a lot about ‘follow the science,'” the Fox News Sunday moderator stated. “Isn’t announcing a specific date, and a specific plan, for the general population before any of the regulators—the FDA, the CDC—have approved it, isn’t that the exact opposite of ‘follow the science?'”
Collins insisted that Biden had based his August booster shot proposal on the recommendation of scientists who had looked at data and said it would be a “good thing for Americans to utilize.” At the same time, the NIH chief noted that the president acknowledged last month that his plan was pending CDC and FDA approval. And even prior to Friday’s panel vote, top government scientists had warned the administration to pump the brakes on boosters.
“I guess I’m a little troubled, Chris, about all of the buzz that’s happening right now about whether the process was perfect,” Collins grumbled. “Of course it’s not perfect. No process ever is. But have we lost track of the goals? The goals here are to try to protect Americans from dying from this disease—670,000 have already.”
He continued: “It does look, from review of the data, by people like myself, that we are going to need to provide boosters for people at risk in order to keep this surge from beginning to affect even those who are fully vaccinated. We’re trying to do the right thing, trying to look at the data as it evolves, recognize things are changing day by day. Maybe we ought to be talking more about that than whether the president said this a month ago, and FDA said this on Friday.”