The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic has requested that Mandy Cohen, the recently appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), answer questions on the federal government’s plans for a COVID-19 vaccine campaign this fall.
In a letter to Cohen, subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) indicated that his request for information was made in response to a recent interview the director gave to Spectrum News.
In the interview, Cohen said, “I don’t want to get ahead of where our scientists are here and doing that evaluation work, but yes, we anticipate that COVID will become similar to flu shots, where it is going to be you get your annual flu shot and you get your annual COVID shot.”
Wenstrup wrote that it was “unclear if the science supports such a recommendation.”
“If this anticipated CDC recommendation occurs, it will mark a significant change in federal policy and guidance regarding COVID-19 vaccines and the way in which they are utilized,” he said.
The Ohio congressman requested that Cohen provide the select subcommittee with documents and communications having to do with vaccine recommendations as well as a briefing from the CDC next week.
Cohen kicked off her tenure as the new CDC director last month. She previously served as the head of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and also worked at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the Obama administration.
President Biden’s appointment of Cohen did not require Senate confirmation, though some Republican lawmakers did express their opposition to her before she assumed the role.
In a June letter to Biden, GOP lawmakers including Reps. Chip Roy (Texas), Byron Donalds (Fla.), Debbie Lesko (Ariz.) as well as Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah) and J.D. Vance (Ohio) said they believed Cohen to be “unfit” to lead the CDC.
Many of their criticisms were related to Cohen’s support for coronavirus vaccinations, mask-wearing and viral mitigation methods in schools. They also argued she was too left-wing to lead the nonpartisan agency.
One of Cohen’s first major tasks as CDC director will be carrying out a fall vaccine campaign against COVID-19. Both Moderna and Pfizer have recently filed for authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their updated shots that protect against the XBB.1.5 Omicron subvariant, which currently accounts for about 1 in 5 coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Even before the public health emergency (PHE) for the pandemic ended, health officials had said that the U.S. was likely moving towards annual immunizations against the coronavirus akin to how annual flu shots are administered.
“In the absence of dramatically different variants, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual updated COVID-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” Anthony Fauci, former chief medical adviser to the president, said last year.
Vaccine enthusiasm has dwindled significantly since the first shots were made available at the end of 2020. The CDC stopped updating vaccine administration data at the end of the PHE in May. At the time, only 17 percent of the U.S. had gotten an updated booster shot.