Their disagreement centers on whether the U.S. should eventually offer an additional shot to every vaccinated adult.

By ERIN BANCO

President Joe Biden’s top health advisers are split over the role booster shots should play in the next phase of the pandemic, setting up key fault lines to close in the coming weeks as they try to ward off further surges this fall and winter.

Their disagreement centers on whether the U.S. should eventually offer an additional shot to every vaccinated adult in hopes of preventing even mild and moderate symptomatic breakthrough infections, according to three senior health officials and two people familiar with the government’s internal discussions.

The Biden team’s deliberations have intensified in recent days, as officials scrutinize the incomplete and sometimes conflicting data on vaccines’ performance. One group, including some scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, argues that boosters aren’t capable of blocking all infection, the sources said. They think additional vaccine doses should be given only as needed to reduce cases of severe illness and death. Another group — including Biden’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci — says the government should not rule out using boosters to help stave off even mild Covid-19 infections that can keep people out of work for weeks.

Whatever decisions health officials make will have major implications for the course of the pandemic in the coming months, when the combination of colder weather and holiday gatherings is poised to fuel the virus’ spread. The growing tension among the president’s top

Covid-19 advisers raises questions about whether the goals of the nation’s vaccination campaign are changing, and the degree to which breakthrough infections may be inevitable. It comes as many scientists warn that while the pandemic will eventually end, the virus itself will remain a significant presence for years to come.

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