The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee on Thursday, Sept. 23, approved COVID-19 vaccine booster doses for elderly Americans and those with chronic health conditions, partly echoing a decision by the FDA which authorized Pfizer vaccine boosters for seniors and high-risk individuals a day earlier.
After discussing a recommendation on booster shots, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) greenlighted third doses for those 65 years and older, long-term care facility residents, and those between ages 50 and 64 with underlying health conditions.
The COVID-19 vaccine boosters would be given to these individuals at least six months after their final shots, the CDC said. The boosters are only available to those who received the Pfizer vaccine.
The advisors gave the option for those 18 to 49 who have chronic health conditions to receive the boosters.
However, the committee declined to recommend the extra shots for those younger than 65 working or living in a setting where COVID-19 spread could be greater, straying from the FDA’s earlier decision to authorize the boosters for this group Washington Times reported.
“The science shows we have a really effective vaccine, and we aren’t making this decision for the unvaccinated. We’re making this decision for the vaccinated. And I don’t think we have the data for these younger age groups to make a decision for a booster dose,” said Lynn Bahta, ACIP member and vaccine expert at the Minnesota Department of Health.
“To me that would suggest the vaccine doesn’t work, and we know that isn’t true, but that’s how that message will be conveyed to the broader public,” she said.
The CDC’s committee said it would change its recommendations if new evidence shows more people need a booster shot.
It also expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the United States’ vaccine rollout. According to The Associated Press, the government still has not considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.
The CDC made their decision after the FDA on Thursday authorized the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to be administered as boosters at least six months after completion of the primary Pfizer-BioNTech jabs in specific populations.
The decision will allow access for millions of Americans to get booster shots. According to The Associated Press, about 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, almost half of whom are 65 or older.
It remains unclear how many more would meet the CDC advisors’ booster qualifications.