WASHINGTON – The US government on Friday decided to open COVID-19 booster shots to all adults, stepping up efforts to keep ahead of the rise in coronavirus cases that experts say could snowball into a winter wave as millions of Americans travel for vacation.
The Food and Drug Administration’s move aims to simplify what has been a confusing list of those eligible for a recall: Now, anyone 18 years of age or older can choose a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose, no matter what. either the vaccine she received first. . The move came after a dozen states started offering boosters to all adults.
“We heard loud and clear that people needed something simpler – and that, I think, is simple,” FDA vaccine director Dr. Peter Marks told The Associated Press.
But there is one step left before this policy is final: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must come to an agreement. Its science advisers backed the decision on Friday afternoon after discussing the safety and usefulness of Pfizer and Moderna boosters, even in healthy young adults.
CDC advisers said anyone 18 and older can choose a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine booster, but went one step further and stressed that people 50 and older should get one. A final CDC decision was expected later on Friday.
“It’s a stronger recommendation,” said CDC adviser Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure that we provide as much protection as possible.”
The # 1 priority is always to ensure that more unvaccinated Americans receive their first doses. That’s because the three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States continue to offer strong protection against serious illnesses, including hospitalization and death, without a booster. But the protection against infection may decrease over time.
“Death from COVID-19 is vaccine-preventable for most people living in the United States,” Daley noted.
But if the CDC agrees, tens of millions more Americans who are six months after their last Pfizer or Moderna shot could get an extra dose of protection before the New Year. The Moderna booster is half the dose of previous shots. Anyone who has ever received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in one dose can already be boosted after two months.
Teen boosters are not yet under discussion, and child-sized doses of Pfizer vaccine have just been distributed to children aged 5 to 11.
The push to expand the boosters comes as new cases of COVID-19 have increased steadily over the past three weeks, especially in states where colder weather is pushing people indoors. Some states did not wait for federal authorities to act and have opened recalls to all adults.
Marks said he understood why some governors got ahead of the FDA.
“We are entering a cold season, cases are increasing, peak travel season, people inside are sharing good vacation times together,” he said. “They probably saw the specter of what could happen here and were – well meaning – trying to do something.”
Boosters for everyone was the original goal of the Biden administration. But so far, US health officials – backed by their scientific advisers – have questioned the need for such widespread boosters. Instead, they approved Pfizer or Moderna boosters only for vulnerable groups such as older Americans or those at high risk of COVID-19 due to health, job, or living conditions.
This time around, the FDA concluded that the overall benefits of additional protection from a third dose for any adult outweighed the risks of rare side effects from Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine, such as a type of heart inflammation observed mainly in young men.
Several other countries have discouraged the use of the Moderna vaccine in young people because of this concern, citing data suggesting that the rare side effect may occur somewhat more with this vaccine than its competitor.
Pfizer told CDC advisers that in a booster study of 10,000 people as young as 16, there were no more serious side effects from a third dose of the vaccine than previous ones. This study found that a booster restored protection against symptomatic infections to about 95%, even as the extra-contagious delta variant increased.
Britain recently released real-world data showing the same leap in protection once it started offering boosters to middle-aged and older adults, and Israel credited the widespread boosters with helping to fend off another wave of viruses.
More than 195 million Americans are fully immunized, defined as having received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna or single-dose J&J vaccines. More than 30 million people have already received a recall. This includes some people who were not eligible; many vaccination sites did not verify qualifications.
Some experts fear that the full focus on recalls could hamper efforts to reach the 60 million Americans eligible for vaccinations but who have not received the vaccines. There is also growing concern that rich countries are offering large-scale boosters while poor countries have been unable to immunize more than a small fraction of their population.
“In terms of the # 1 priority for reducing transmission in this country and around the world, it remains to ensure that people receive their first round of vaccines,” said Dr David Dowdy of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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