In an unusual move, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) set aside the recommendation of its independent panel of experts, ruling that coronavirus booster shots using the Pfizer/BioNTech inoculation can now be officially distributed to some adults in the United States.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced early Friday morning that the health authority will advise that all those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings should receive the booster.
This would be in addition to the people at higher risk, such as those over 65, those living in long-term care facility and some who suffer from underlying health conditions, who already have been cleared by the CDC to receive a third shot.
The CDC recommendation issued on Friday includes all those made by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) yesterday, when moved that there should be boosters for people age 65 and up; residents of long-term care facilities who had already received the Pfizer/BioNTech series at least six months ago; and those from the ages of 50 to 64 who suffer from previously existing medical conditions.
The drug regulatory authority also backed the vaccine advisory panel’s recommendation that all those aged 18 to 49 who suffer from such medical conditions can receive a booster inoculation, based on their own individual situations.
The ACIP panel had earlier voted, by a tally of 9-6, against recommending a third shot for those aged 18 to 64 who find themselves at increased risk because of their occupational or institutional environments, including health care workers, caregivers for very ill and/or immunocompromised individuals, and those living in homeless shelters and correctional facilities.
CDC Director Walensky’s Friday recommendation was in line with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decision issued on Wednesday, granting emergency use authorization for the Pfizer booster shot for all those 65 and older, as well as those who are at high risk of contracting severe disease and those whose occupations place them at risk of becoming infected.
CDC OK’s Booster Shots for Those Working in High-risk Occupations
Walensky stated on Friday, “As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact. At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.
“I believe we can best serve the nation’s public health needs by providing booster doses for the elderly, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions, and for adults at high risk of disease from occupational and institutional exposures to COVID-19.
“This aligns with the FDA’s booster authorization and makes these groups eligible for a booster shot. Today, ACIP only reviewed data for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. We will address, with the same sense of urgency, recommendations for the Moderna and J & J vaccines as soon as those data are available.”
The booster question came to the fore after the nation of Israel began issuing third shots to its general population earlier this year, and then again in August when American health officials announced the US would begin offering a third dose to those who had received their mRNA-based vaccines when they first began to be administered, approximately eight months earlier, as soon as FDA and CDC officials ruled that it was prudent to do so.
At that time, concrete data regarding the safety and efficacy of booster shots was limited; as time goes on, more and more such information is gleaned from studies, real-life observations and statistics.
The Pfizer Corporation, under its CEO Albert Bourla, had asked the FDA to grant approval for a booster shot for all Americans 16 and older as early as six months after they had completed their initial immunization series.
At the time, Pfizer stated that it already had enough evidence that immunity begins to decrease after a period of six months and that administering a third shot is a safe way to restore immunity.
The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna drug firm has requested that the FDA give approval of booster shots for its own vaccine, but so far the drug regulatory agency has only considered Pfizer’s request.
The Johnson & Johnson corporation released some data this past week that it believes demonstrates that a third dose of its vaccine increased immunity up to 95%; however, it has not yet formally requested that FDA consider approval of its booster shot.