CDC director endorses Pfizer Covid vaccine booster shot

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The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention early Friday endorsed recommendations for a third dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for certain at-risk groups, clearing the way for millions of Americans to get a booster.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky signed off on the recommendations for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine after advisers approved them Thursday.

She endorsed the recommendations but went further — also recommending a third dose for workers in high-risk settings and those in institutional settings.

"This updated interim guidance from CDC allows for millions of Americans who are at highest risk for COVID-19 to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot to help increase their protection," the agency said in a statement.

The CDC now says that people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should get a booster, and so should people 50 to 64 years old who have an underlying medical condition.

Those 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions, and those 18 to 64 who are at an increased risk because of an occupational or institutional setting, "may" get a shot, the CDC says.

The committee of advisers voted Thursday against recommending a booster for people younger than 65 who have a high risk of being exposed to the virus at work, including health care workers and teachers.

Image: FILE PHOTO: Vaccines are administered to students at Ohio State University (GAELEN MORSE / Reuters, file)
Image: FILE PHOTO: Vaccines are administered to students at Ohio State University (GAELEN MORSE / Reuters, file)

Walensky said that recommending a booster for those in at-risk work and other environments mirrors Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization.

The FDA on Wednesday authorized a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those 65 and older, and those 18 and older who are at high risk.

The booster is to be given at least six months after people get their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

The CDC says it will be reviewing data in the coming weeks and will make recommendations about those who got the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Moderna has submitted its application to the FDA for its booster dose, and Johnson & Johnson has provided data but has not said when it will seek emergency use authorization.

Walensky said in a statement that getting more Americans vaccinated in the first place remains a primary goal.

As of Thursday, around 64 percent of people 12 years and older have been fully vaccinated against Covid, according to the CDC. For those 18 and older, that number is around 66 percent.

But the rate of vaccinations varies by state, with some states at around less than 45 percent of total residents fully vaccinated, although those numbers include children not eligible for it. Some parts of the country have recently seen overwhelmed hospitals due to a surge of Covid patients.