Senior Biden administration coronavirus officials are increasingly at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accusing the agency of withholding crucial data needed to develop a booster shot plan and thus making it more difficult to set clear expectations for the public, Politico reported Monday.
Two officials said there was a particularly frustrating example last month when the CDC appeared to publicly reject the administration’s plan to offer boosters to all adults.
In mid-August, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky had joined other top Biden health officials in signing a highly publicized statement endorsing the approach.
However, less than two weeks later CDC officials blindsided senior health officials across the federal government by arguing before an influential advisory panel that priority should be given to nursing-home residents and frontline health workers, due to their vulnerability, before expanding access to other groups.
This, along with several other episodes, has led to a growing tension in the relationship between the White House and the CDC, according to numerous officials familiar with the situation.
The infighting comes as the administration presses to start distributing booster shots widely by Sept. 20 in an attempt to combat the Delta variant and win back the trust of the American public after two months of setbacks and missteps.
Walensky has defended the CDC, saying that Biden White House officials, who have promised to follow the science, were told that the September booster target was too ambitious, because the CDC had not yet completed necessary studies on the shots.
A CDC official said there are unrealistic expectations from the White House, stressing that “Science takes time. I don’t know how many times we have to say this.”
White House officials and Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, were eager to start giving boosters to the public later this month, citing data from Israel that suggested the efficacy of vaccines was waning and that breakthrough infections were increasing, according to Politico.
But Walensky and other senior CDC officials, while agreeing that vaccine efficacy was declining and that Americans would eventually need booster shots, stressed that the CDC did not yet have enough data from its studies on the matter to start giving the additional jabs.