The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now signed off on offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to all adults, allowing expanded boosting to begin nationwide this weekend.
“Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement this evening.
Earlier today, the Food and Drug Administration authorized use of the boosters in all adults, and a committee of independent advisers for the CDC voted unanimously in favor of recommending boosters for all adults. Specifically, the committee voted unanimously (11-0) that people age 50 and over should get a booster six months after their second dose and that people age 18 and over may get a booster after their second dose. The committee came to the unanimous decisions after reviewing extensive safety data and clinical data showing that the third shots significantly elevated antibody levels.
“Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays,” Dr. Walensky added in her statement.
But safety and efficacy of the booster doses were not the only factors that convinced the advisers. They were also swayed by concerns of rising cases amid the winter holidays, as well as clear evidence that the current guidance on boosters is creating a barrier to extra protection. The committee heard recent survey data indicating that 40 percent of adults are unsure of whether they’re currently eligible for a booster dose or not. Prior to today, boosters were only recommended for certain groups, creating confusion.
Now, the guidance is simply that anyone age 18 and up who is fully vaccinated with any of the COVID-19 vaccines can get any of the vaccines as a booster.
Though the Biden administration’s months-long push for boosters for all adults has generated tension among experts and regulators, opposition to widespread boosting has faded recently. Many applauded today’s decision, including Dr. Gerald Harmon, president of the American Medical Association.
“We believe the FDA’s authorization and the ACIP’s recommendations in support of booster doses for all adults will help provide continued protection against COVID-19 as we head into the winter months,” Dr. Harmon said in a statement. “Data presented today showed that adverse events following mRNA booster doses are similar to or lower than those seen after the primary vaccine series. The scientific evidence is clear that the vaccines against COVID-19 are safe and remain effective.”