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The Biden administration is confident COVID-19 booster shot distribution to limited groups will go smoothly despite no way to catch people who lie about their eligibility.
The administration intends to provide booster shots to seniors, adults with underlying conditions that put them at greater risk, and front-line workers, including teachers and healthcare professionals.
“As with the first rollout of vaccines in the primary series, what we are doing now is self-attestation,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky on Friday. “The data that we have reviewed and the advice and recommendations we have given is for Pfizer boosts with people who received the Pfizer primary series.”
Still, people who received the first two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine but do not yet qualify for a third dose could get a booster at one of about 80,000 locations across the country if they lie about their eligibility.
Walensky took the highly unusual step late Thursday night to overrule the CDC’s panel of vaccine experts, which issued clinical guidelines for Pfizer boosters earlier that day. The panel, also referred to as ACIP, voted to approve extra shots for seniors as well as people 18 and over who have underlying health conditions at least six months after completing the two-dose Pfizer vaccine regimen.
The panel voted down criteria to allow people in jobs that put them at high risk of exposure, such as teachers and healthcare workers, to get the extra doses. However, Walensky went against the committee’s decision and recommended the third shots for front-line workers, siding with the Food and Drug Administration rather than her own agency.
Walensky’s rapid response to the ACIP ruling was a win for President Joe Biden, who has faced criticism over the past couple of months for pushing booster approval before government health officials at the FDA and the CDC could debate the question. He encouraged people who do not yet qualify for boosters to “wait your turn in line,” advice that has already fallen on many deaf ears.
The process of distributing extra doses of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to run more smoothly than the early stages of the vaccine rollout in late December 2020, thanks to plentiful supplies accrued by the federal government over the past eight months. People who first received the Pfizer shots six months ago or longer can get the boosters at any pharmacy or clinic that stocks that vaccine.
“We saw what happened during the initial rollout of vaccinations in December 2020. The country lost precious time because the federal government had no plan to administer shots,” Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said on Friday. “This time around, because we've been planning for this moment for weeks, we are prepared and ready to execute.”
To date, about three-quarters of people 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine. The most-used vaccine is Pfizer's, with more than 222 million shots administered so far.
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Original Author: Cassidy Morrison