CDC approves Covid booster shots for those over 65

Anjalee Khemlani joins Yahoo Finance to break down the CDC’s decision to support boosters for at-risk workers, vulnerable Americans, and seniors as surges of COVID continue to grip the nation.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: OK, the CDC has endorsed the distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 booster shots to older Americans and other vulnerable individuals. Yahoo Finance senior healthcare reporter Anjalee Khemlani has the details. Anjalee.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Brian. So the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky just came out today confirming the FDA's emergency use authorization of Pfizer, BioNTech's vaccine, allowing those who are 65 and older and all adults with underlying conditions, as well as those who are at risk of getting infected either through their work or institutions that they're in, such as prisons or homeless shelters, or healthcare workers and other frontline and essential workers, including teachers.

And that is really at the crux, that last part, is at the crux of where some debate came up yesterday at the CDC's advisory committee meeting, where some panel members felt that it was too broad a discussion for who should get a vaccine, and instead, should be a little bit curtailed in the way that it was worded.

Now the direction that came down from Dr. Walensky kind of indicates what many health systems and healthcare workers were hoping to have happen because it really speaks to the understaffing and the severe shortages that health systems across the country are facing and the exposure then that the risk to exposure of any kind of COVID-19 symptoms that they could then get, which then results in them calling out and even more understaffing.

The FDA's authorization did specifically say any risk to severe COVID. So the CDC really took it just a step further, gaining a lot of support from the healthcare workers as well. So just to break it down, right, if you can see on your screen right now, that's how the FDA authorization is worded and includes some of those individuals, but specifically notes that severe COVID risk. So that's what the change was there.

Meanwhile, we just heard from President Joe Biden who was discussing the booster guidance and the opening of booster shots for all those who are qualified and also encouraging those who are unvaccinated yet to get vaccinated. And that's a key issue still because it's what's leading to, as we saw, the recent surges. Many of the people who are in hospitals were those who were unvaccinated. And that remains a top priority for the administration right now. Back to you guys.

JULIE HYMAN: You know, I want to ask you, Anjalee, something kind of in the background here. And this is, you know, that we are seeing the CDC, to some extent, go against the FDA guidance, right, or tweak it a little bit. And that reminds me of a book that is out recently from Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, in which he's quite critical of the CDC, especially in its early handling of the coronavirus crisis and its testing protocols.

We all remember that testing was sort of clunky and slow to get up and running, in part because of how the CDC was doing it. And I wonder where we are now and what this latest sort of FDA recommendation then translated by the CDC tells us about what the CDC and FDA have learned.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, I would say that in some cases, there are still existing criticisms. And in recent weeks, you've seen a comparison crop up between the way that the CDC operated under the Trump administration and how it's operating currently under the Biden administration and drawing some similarities. And some experts have said it's just the way that the system has been functioning, really, you know, not on display and under such a large spotlight.

And that's why we're seeing some of the breakdowns now. And it's an imperfect system that needs to maybe be looked at again. They have, in general, the idea that politics does not play a role has existed for so long. And that has really, really come under criticism for both agencies, the FDA and the CDC, in the last one or two years. And it's definitely something that needs to be addressed as it stands right now.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yahoo Finance senior healthcare reporter Anjalee Khemlani, thank you.

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