Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Friday endorsed COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for those at-risk for severe infection, clearing the way for millions to get a third dose of Pfizer’s vaccine.
Walensky also overruled a key vaccine panel at her own agency and went further with her recommendation, adding that essential workers could also seek out a booster shot.
Walensky released a statement saying that as CDC Director, it was my job to identify where our actions could have the greatest impact. “CDC has the responsibility of analyzing complex and often incomplete data in order to make concrete recommendations to optimize health. We must act in a situation where there is uncertainty to prevent a pandemic.
Officially, Friday’s CDC guidance stated that all people over 65, long-term residents, and those with underlying medical conditions, should seek a third dose. It also states that everyone between 50 and 64 who has had their last shot “should” get a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine within six months. A booster may also be requested for people between the ages of 18 and 49 who have underlying medical conditions, or who are at higher risk for COVID-19 as a result of their jobs.
Walensky’s guidance was issued less than 24 hours after an advisory panel recommended boosters for people over 64, long-term care residents, and those with underlying medical conditions. The panel didn’t offer any guidance to essential workers.
However, Walensky’s guidance is consistent with the Food and Drug Administration, which updated its guidance on Wednesday to say that those at increased risk for COVID-19 infection should be eligible for a booster.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, stated that the FDA had amended the EUA of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine in order to allow for a booster dose for certain populations, including teachers, health care workers, and grocery workers.
Friday’s guidance is only for those who have been given the Pfizer vaccine. Officials expect guidance to be available in the next few weeks for people who have received the Moderna vaccine.
Already, the FDA and CDC approved booster shots for immunocompromised patients who have had mRNA vaccines. In August, that guidance was made public.