An advisory committee to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Thursday to recommend booster doses for recipients of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine who are 65 and older and those who live in long-term care facilities, at least six months after their second dose. The committee also voted to recommend Pfizer boosters for people ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions.
For younger people, ages 18 to 49, the vote to recommend a booster came with a qualification that younger adults should consider their personal risk-benefit profile before opting for a booster. The lack of data on a clear benefit to a Pfizer booster for younger people is what led the majority of committee members to vote against recommending that Pfizer boosters be given to people at risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission because of their work.
Like all three coronavirus vaccines available in the US, Pfizer’s booster will be free. Booster shots for people who are fully vaccinated withand aren’t authorized yet.
Third doses of mRNA vaccines have been recommended for moderately or severely immunocompromised individuals who received Moderna or Pfizer since August.
Before a CDC recommendation becomes official, the panel’s decision needs to be approved by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the US Department of Health and Human Services. But it’s expected that the committee’s recommendation will be accepted.
The FDA gave emergency use authorization for a booster dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine Wednesday for people who are 65 and older, 18 and older who are at risk of severe COVID-19, and those with “frequent institutional or occupational exposure,” at least six months after their second shot. The authorization, which is of its vaccine, came after a lengthy debate by an FDA committee that rejected booster doses for the general population. The FDA panel cited a lack of data of the benefits of a booster for most people, where Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines remain protective against severe disease caused by COVID-19.
At the CDC committee meeting, members reiterated the importance of vaccinating the unvaccinated as the top goal of the pandemic. In a presentation shared by a committee member, a poll found that a third of unvaccinated people said that COVID-19 boosters would make them less likely to get vaccinated at all. Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, an ACIP committee member, said boosters weren’t the answer to the pandemic, and that giving them out while others remain unvaccinated may be like “lipstick on hogs.”
Unvaccinated people are about 10 times more likely to get hospitalized with COVID-19 and 10 times more likely to die from the disease than fully vaccinated people, recent data shared by the CDC found.
While the US debates boosters, a little over 2% of people in low-income countries have received any COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data.
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