Following President Joe Biden’s remarks on Friday that he plans to request funding for a new COVID vaccine amid rising cases in this country, doctors are sharing their input on whether another version is needed.
"I signed off this morning on a proposal we have to present to the Congress a request for additional funding for a new vaccine that is necessary, that works," Biden told reporters during his vacation in Lake Tahoe.
"It will likely be recommended that everybody get it no matter whether they’ve gotten it before or not," he also said.
The president’s comments came as the CDC is reporting that COVID-related hospitalizations have risen 21.6% in the most recent week and that deaths have risen 21.4%.
The numbers are still far below the levels seen during the pandemic, however.
Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, said it is "impossible to know what [Biden] is referring to" in his comment.
"There is a new MRNA shot to cover the XBB variant that will also cover the rapidly spreading EG.5 subvariant that descended from it, which will be out in mid-September," Siegel told Fox News Digital.
"As far as I know, there are no plans to mandate it."
The CDC has told Siegel that it will target high-risk groups with the new vaccine, he said. Siegel added that the U.S. could benefit from a vaccine that is "more universal or covers all variants" — or one that creates a nasal barrier.
"Several of these are being studied, and would do a much better job at decreasing or stopping transmission, but as far as I know, none are ready for approval," Siegel said.
"Perhaps [Biden] means that he will be asking Congress for more funding to pursue these vaccines — but how can you talk about mandating something that hasn't been developed?" he also said.
The vaccines that are currently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines (mRNA vaccines) and the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine (a protein subunit vaccine).
Dr. Brett Osborn, a board-certified neurosurgeon in West Palm Beach, Florida, who also runs a preventative health care and anti-aging facility called Senolytix, compared COVID to the flu, in that they both mutate frequently.
To help protect against flu mutations, the CDC historically has helped to formulate updated vaccines to boost immunity.
"The same logic applies to SARS-COV-2, so it is not unreasonable to include the latest strains in an updated vaccine, especially since COVID-related deaths currently exceed flu-related deaths," he told Fox News Digital. "That said, COVID-related deaths are decreasing yearly."
One of the factors in the decreasing deaths is vaccination, the doctor said.
So do we need a new vaccine?
"Not really," Osborn answered. "The current vaccines confer protection against omicron and, to a degree, its subvariants, such as EG.5 or Eris."
Although an updated vaccine would more precisely target those subvariants, Osborn said he believes these should be administered only to the at-risk population, including seniors and those with multiple medical comorbidities, such as type II diabetes and obesity.
"The remainder of the population — those who are categorically low-risk — have little to worry about, as is the case with influenza," he said.
"As time goes by, RNA viruses typically become weaker, and the threat is lessened."
And there is not currently any shortage of the COVID vaccine, Osborn noted.
An updated version is slated for release in mid-September in response to the newly identified omicron subvariants, which are currently the dominant strains that are infecting patients.
"Such mutations will continue to emerge, as is the case with the flu virus," he said. "However, only the at-risk population should be concerned and potentially be boosted."
"The entire United States does not need to be boosted yearly," Osborn continued. "It should acquire its immunity the old-fashioned way: through infection."
The doctor is also leery of the implications of a government-funded vaccine, which he described as "potentially sinister."
"Vaccines for influenza — which has a very similar overall mortality rate to COVID-19 and its subvariants — are not government-funded," Osborn said to Fox News Digital.
"They are guided by CDC recommendations based on epidemiologic data, but are manufactured by independent pharmaceutical companies."
"This is not the case with the COVID-19 vaccination," he went on. "Big pharma is being funded by the U.S. government to manufacture vaccines — yet we are no longer in a state of emergency or even a heightened threat. So why is this being done?"
Added Osborn, "This is a slippery slope, in my opinion, one that is fueled by manufactured hysteria without scientific basis."
Dr. Edward Liu, infectious diseases section chief at Hackensack Meridian Jersey Shore University Medical Center in New Jersey, noted that "the current COVID vaccines work well to prevent serious illness, but do not stop transmission of COVID."
"One of the goals of a ‘perfect’ COVID vaccine would be to stop transmission by producing active antibodies in the nose and respiratory tract to stop COVID before it causes serious disease," Liu told Fox News Digital. "The current COVID vaccines don't do that."
The doctor also noted that new generations of vaccine technology potentially can be improved to reduce side effects even further, "so people will not hesitate to get vaccinated."
"MRNA vaccines have been associated rarely with myocarditis, but Johnson & Johnson had rare but serious blood disorder side effects, which caused it to be withdrawn from the U.S. market," Liu said.
As a new vaccine is perfected, Liu said he expects it to replace the current ones.
"Future vaccine technologies could be started now to prepare the next generation of COVID vaccines or protect the population from the next pandemic virus," he added.
COVID surges — which are normal and expected, just as with the seasonal flu, Dr. Obsorn said — should not be a cause for concern unless the mortality data were to spike significantly.
To prevent spread, the doctor recommended following these "common sense" immunologic principles: