This week, millions of Americans were eligible for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
In a news conference on Friday, President Joe Biden revealed that at least 60 million people could receive third doses — but he told those outside the eligible groups to “wait their turn.”
But there was some confusion over who Biden was talking about, especially after Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rejected her own agency’s advisory panel to recommend boosters for a broader group.
As this new phase of vaccine rollout begins, DailyMail.com is analyzing who qualifies for boosters, where to get them, and why CDC advisers have been at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On Friday, President Joe Biden announced in a news conference (above) that 60 million Americans are eligible for booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine.
WHAT ARE COVID-19 VACCINE BOOSTERS?
A booster shot is given at least six months after people have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is intended to prolong immunity and ‘boost’ the immune system to make higher levels of antibodies against the virus.
WHICH COVID-19 VACCINE BOOSTER CAN I GET?
Currently, only people who have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and received their last injection at least six months ago can receive booster shots.
This is because the FDA has only reviewed data from Pfizer so far.
Pfizer’s booster injection is exactly the same – in ingredients and dosage (30 micrograms) – as the first two doses.
WHO SHOULD GET BOOSTERSHOTS?
Last month, boosters were approved for Americans with compromised immune systems. This week, that authorization was extended to specific risk groups.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended on Thursday that people in one of these groups should receive a third dose:
- People 65 years and older
- Residents of a long-term care facility
- People aged 50 to 64 at high risk of severe COVID-19 due to underlying medical conditions
DailyMail.com has listed who is eligible for boosters, when they can get them, and why a CDC panel initially rejected boosters for specific groups. Pictured: An elderly woman receives a COVID-19 Pfizer booster, September 24
WHO CAN CONSIDER GET BOOSTERS?
Two more groups were considered by the CDC but stopped offering a full recommendation, instead saying they may consider boosters:
- People aged 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions based on individual benefits and risks
- People aged 18 to 64 at high risk because of their jobs, such as health professionals, teachers and supermarket employees –
- People aged 18 to 64 who are in homeless shelters or in prisons
BUT DON’T THE CDC’S ADIVSORY PANEL RECOMMEND AGAINST BOOSTERS FOR PEOPLE AT HIGH RISK FROM THEIR JOBS?
ACIP voted 8-7 against recommending use for those at risk due to a “professional or institutional setting” after the FDA approved third doses for this group.
At Thursday’s meeting, some members said the FDA granted this authorization based on limited data and there was not enough evidence to prove that people in these groups needed third doses.
Others feared that adopting employment-based boosters would lead to overuse.
But, in a surprising move, Walensky overturned the decision Thursday night, saying giving boosters to health professionals and others would “best meet the nation’s public health needs.”
“In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we need to take measures that we expect will do the greatest good,” she said in a statement.
Biden agreed to this move because it is consistent with his own administration’s plan to eventually offer boosters to all Americans.
WHERE CAN I GET A BOOSTER SHOT?
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Biden said booster shots will be available at 80,000 locations across the US
This includes more than 40,000 pharmacies, health departments, hospitals and clinics.
You will probably have to show your vaccine card and proof that you fall under one of the qualifying groups will be on an honor system rather than providing proof.
Boosters are free under the FDA emergency use authorization.
ARE BOOSTERS SHOTS APPROVED BECAUSE THE PROTECTION AGAINST THE VACCINE DRIVES?
Recently, some research has suggested that certain groups of people — and certain vaccines — may have waning immunity over time.
Boosters were approved after several reports, including a CDC study, showed that the Moderna shot was 96.3% effective against symptomatic diseases, while the Pfizer shot was 88.9% effective – and the Moderna shot was also more effective after one dose
Some people have weakened immune systems, either due to medical conditions or due to age, which makes them unable to mount a full immune response to the first two doses.
In addition, recent studies have shown that vaccine protection does decline after more than four months.
This week, a study led by the CDC compared 5,000 health professionals in 25 states who received either the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine
After two doses, the Moderna shot was 96.3 percent effective against symptomatic illness, while the Pfizer injection was 88.9 percent effective.
In addition, a CDC report released last week found that the Moderna vaccine was 93 percent effective against hospitalization, compared with 88 percent for the Pfizer vaccine and 71 percent for the Johnson & Johnson shot.
The report also found that antibody levels in blood samples were highest in Moderna recipients in a separate group of healthy volunteers compared to levels for Pfizer and J&J recipients.
However, health officials insist that vaccines are still highly effective against the most serious effects of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.
They also say they want to focus the rollout on getting the unvaccinated, who are most at risk for serious outcomes, their shots.
WHAT IF I RECEIVED THE MODERNA OR JOHNSON & JOHNSON VACCINES?
Moderna has filed with the FDA for approval for the booster injection, with Johnson & Johnson expected to do so in the coming weeks.
Therefore, recipients of either of these two vaccines are not yet eligible for boosters, but both are expected to become available in the future.
Biden said on Thursday that scientists are still examining data for booster shots from the two companies.
“Our doctors and scientists are working day and night to analyze the data from those two organizations if and when you need a booster shot, and we’ll give you updates as the process progresses,” he said.
CAN I MIX AND MATCH?
Currently, federal health officials do not recommend having a booster shot made by a vaccine manufacturer other than your initial doses.
This means that Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are not recommended to receive a booster dose from Pfizer and vice versa.