CDC Panel Endorses Booster Shot for Elderly, Stops Short of Health-Care Workers

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory committee unanimously voted Thursday to approve Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID booster shot for elderly people, assisted-living-facility residents, and those at high risk of developing serious illness from the virus.

The panel stopped short of recommending it for employees in the health-care industry or for “institutional” workers who may be subject to more COVID exposure by the nature of their work.

“It just seems uncharacteristically openly ended for the lack of data of need in any of these groups,” Sarah Long, a member of the CDC panel, explained as reasoning for not offering the third dose to these occupation groups.

In its decision, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices advised that qualified recipients wait at minimum six months after the set of first two doses before getting the booster.

While the panel green-flagged the shot for people 65 and older, it said people between 18 and 49 who are prone to health complications should discuss the option with their physicians before pursuing a third dose.

The committee’s approval comes after the Food and Drug Administration authorized on Wednesday the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for individuals age 65 and older and those age 18 to 64 with preexisting health problems.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will now receive the recommendation and decide whether to issue final approval for the third dose for the newly eligible categories. Recognizing that the research and data on the boosters are still developing, the panel specified that its directives were “interim recommendations.”

The Thursday development is an update from the panel’s August roundtable, when it first advanced the shot for the more limited demographics of “solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.”

In a presentation to the panel at the August meeting, the CDC suggested that individuals undergoing treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood; organ-transplant patients, including those who have received a stem-cell transplant within the past two years; and those who have diseases that damage the immune system consider a booster, according to the Washington Post.

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