WASHINGTON, DC, Sep 24 — The Centers for Disease Control [CDC] says Americans 65 and older, as well as those at risk due to their medical histories, can begin getting booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. “We encourage our members and all eligible seniors to consider the benefits, not the least of which is a healthier life in our golden years,” says Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
The Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee voted unanimously on Wednesday to authorize a third dose of the vaccine for seniors and individuals who may be at risk and who received double doses of the vaccine six months ago. And, today, CDC scientific advisers voted 15-0 to begin providing third dose inoculations as soon as Director Rochelle Walensky signs off.
The advisers also voted 13-2 in favor of third shots for at-risk seniors between the ages of 50 and 64. A majority also approved shots for adults aged 18 to 49 years with underlying medical conditions.
The advisory panel did not vote on booster shots for people who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. But the New York Times reports that the advisors discussed “a mix-and-match strategy and signaled that they would revisit the issue as new data emerge.” And, according to the Times, once the director makes it official, “anyone who wants a booster may simply be able to walk into a pharmacy and ask for one — many Americans already did so before the FDA’s authorization, typically by finding a cooperative pharmacist or pretending to be unvaccinated.”
The reason for allowing booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine is because the company’s scientists had reported to the FDA that the immunity of those who received the first doses was dropping over time. And the Times report explained that “CDC scientists presented models indicating that, if booster doses were to slightly increase people’s protection against hospitalization, the additional shots could prevent more than 2,000 hospitalizations for every million doses given.”
According to Medscape, an online medical news source for healthcare professionals: “For now, people who were initially vaccinated with either Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are excluded from booster recommendations, something many on the committee were uncomfortable with … The FDA is still considering Moderna’s application to market booster doses. Johnson & Johnson hasn’t yet applied to the FDA for permission to offer second doses in the US.”
In a separate report, Medscape published a commentary regarding the booster shot news by Dr. F. Perry Wilson of the Yale School of Medicine. In it, he noted that it is normal for the efficacy of vaccines to decline over a period of time. However, he says, they remain “pretty strong against severe disease, hospitalization, or death.”
He says that Pfizer’s own data indicates reduced efficacy over time but that independent reports do not indicate a “dramatic” lessening of effectiveness.
Dr. Wilson went on to say that “some would argue that as long as there is still good protection against severe disease and hospitalization, there is no problem here. I’m not one of them. Protection against mild infection clearly has public health benefits. Moreover, remember that even without waning of protection against severe disease, it is possible that boosters could increase protection from their current very high levels to even higher levels — and that’s a good thing too.”
The booster news coincides with the spread of the spread across the country of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.