A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend distributing Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots to Americans who are 65 years old and older.
The agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices specifically endorsed giving third Pfizer shots to people 65 and older in the first of four votes. The panel also recommended third shots for people 50- to 64-years-old with underlying conditions. The panel will also vote on whether to recommend the shots for adults who are more frequently exposed to the virus – possibly including people in nursing homes and prisons, teachers, front-line health employees and other essential workers.
The development comes after the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory panel voted unanimously Friday to support Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for 65+ year-olds and those “at high risk of severe Covid-19.” Earlier in the day, the FDA body rejected a plan to provide Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccines for most Americans, citing a lack of data showing that the additional doses are both safe and effective.
The panel rebuffed the proposal by a vote of 16-12.
“I don’t think a booster dose is going to significantly contribute to controlling the pandemic,” Dr. Cody Meissner, Tufts University professor, said as panel members debate the requirement for a booster shot. “And I think it’s important that the main message we transmit is that we’ve got to get everyone two doses.”
“At this moment it is clear that the unvaccinated are driving transmission in the United States,” added Dr. Amanda Cohn of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Booster shots by Pfizer or Moderna have already been greenlighted for Americans who are immunocompromised.
The FDA panel’s overwhelming rejection came despite full-throated arguments about the need for boosters from both Pfizer and health officials from Israel, which began offering boosters to its citizens in July.
Sharon Alroy-Preis of Israel’s Ministry of Health said the booster dose improves protection tenfold against infection in people 60 and older.
“It’s like a fresh vaccine,” bringing protection back to original levels and helping Israel “dampen severe cases in the fourth wave,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.