CDC panel begins weighing who needs COVID-19 boosters of Pfizer vaccine

·2 min read

A panel for the Centers for Disease Control started considering whether to recommend booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday — and exactly who might be in line to get them.

The debate, which has proved more controversial than many expected, comes after a separate group of Food and Drug Administration experts last week suggested approving booster shots only for senior citizens or those at high risk from the deadly virus.

The experts overwhelmingly rejected the Biden administration’s proposal to recommend a third shot for everyone 16 and over who has received the Pfizer vaccine.

Exactly who should be considered as high risk enough to need a booster shot is likely to be one of the contentious questions faced by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

The meeting is expected to run through Thursday.

Last week’s FDA advisory panel decision was only the first hurdle as the government sets its booster policy. The FDA itself still has to decide whether it agrees with its advisers’ recommendation and will authorize Pfizer boosters.

If it does, the CDC then must recommend who should get the extra shots, after hearing from the panel of its own advisers this week.

The issue of booster shots has become a political and scientific hot potato in recent weeks.

All three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. continue to offer strong protection against severe illness and death. But immunity against milder infection seems to be dropping months after vaccination.

Public health experts say the most pressing priority is still for the U.S. to get shots in arms of the unvaccinated, who account for the vast majority of COVID-19 cases. About 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, only about 55% of the total population.

Doctors are still debating whether preventing so-called “breakthrough” infections among the fully vaccinated could help tamp down virus transmission and ease the burden on overwhelmed health care systems.

After deciding on boosters for Pfizer’s vaccine, officials will likely go through a similar process with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.


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