Ahead of an anticipated CDC advisory panel meeting Wednesday relating to heart inflammation in a small fraction of vaccinated teens and young adults, the head of the agency, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, suspects the data will reveal the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of rare side effects and poor outcomes from COVID-19 disease.
“I think what we will see in this analysis for ACIP [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] tomorrow is the risk of this quite rare and generally mild disease in the context of the benefits of what vaccination can do with regard to COVID-19, preventing severe disease, preventing myocarditis itself, because that is a manifestation of COVID-19 and then of course, preventing death which has also occurred with COVID-19,” Walensky told Fox News in an exclusive interview. “I’m really looking forward to a very balanced discussion of the risks and benefits and having it be open so people really understand how and why the benefits from vaccination far outweigh the risks.”
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The panel had postponed the emergency meeting that was scheduled for June 18 in observance of the newly established federal holiday Juneteenth. Critics said the decision lacked a sense of urgency, but Walensky said the panel’s work did not stop due to the holiday.
“We have been 24/7 with this response since we have been in it, the CDC is not dragging their feet, people have been working all weekend, in fact many people worked on Friday even though it was a national holiday,” Walensky said. “If I had anticipated that anything in discussion of the meeting would have changed what we were doing, we would’ve had it on Friday. My understanding in talking to people who were preparing for the meeting was that, that was not going to be the case. Yes we needed to have a public open dialogue but we also wanted to commemorate the really important holiday that was declared on Friday.”
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In the meantime, Walensky advises those eligible for vaccination continue to receive both doses, particularly amid concerning viral variants, namely the highly transmissible Delta variant first detected in India. Dr. Anthony Fauci announced Tuesday the variant climbed to now account for over 20% of sequenced samples, and appears to be doubling every two weeks.