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CDC approves Pfizer COVID booster shots for millions of older Americans

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(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The CDC late Thursday night endorsed Pfizer booster shots for millions of older, vulnerable Americans. The boosters are recommended for those 65 and older, people 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions, nursing home residents, and high-risk workers. The CDC will next make recommendations on Moderna and Johnson and Johnson’s vaccines as soon as that data is available.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers saying her decision was based on “doing what’s right for the public health.”

The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.

However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.

But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.

Even with the boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses is still considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.

Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses include heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel involving nearly 3 million people mostly 60 and older who received a third Pfizer dose, experienced no problems.

The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.