US opens COVID boosters to all adults, urges them for 50+

By | November 21, 2021

The US on Friday opened COVID-19 booster pictures to all adults and took the additional step of urging folks 50 and older to hunt one, aiming to push back a winter surge as coronavirus instances rise even earlier than tens of millions of Americans journey for the vacations.

Until now, Americans confronted a complicated record of who was eligible for a booster that various by age, their well being and which type of vaccine they acquired first. The Food and Drug Administration licensed modifications to Pfizer and Moderna boosters that makes it simpler.

Under the brand new guidelines, anybody 18 or older can select both a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their final dose. For anybody who acquired the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait already was simply two months. And folks can mix-and-match boosters from any firm.

“We heard loud and clear that people needed something simpler — and this, I think, is simple,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks advised The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needed to agree earlier than the brand new coverage grew to become official late Friday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed a suggestion from her company‘s scientific advisers that — along with providing all adults a booster — had burdened that folks 50 and older must be urged to get one.

Virus surge worsens in Midwest as states expand boosters

“It’s a stronger recommendation,” stated CDC adviser Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure we provide as much protection as we can.”

The CDC additionally put out a plea for many who had beforehand certified however hadn’t but signed up for a booster to stop placing it off — saying older Americans and folks with dangers resembling weight problems, diabetes or different well being issues ought to attempt to get one earlier than the vacations.

The enlargement makes tens of tens of millions extra Americans eligible for an additional dose of safety.

The No. 1 precedence for the US, and the world, nonetheless is to get extra unvaccinated folks of their first doses. All three COVID-19 vaccines used within the US proceed to supply robust safety in opposition to extreme sickness, together with hospitalization and demise, with no booster.

But safety in opposition to an infection can wane with time, and the US and lots of international locations in Europe are also grappling with how broadly to suggest boosters as they battle a winter wave of recent instances. In the US, COVID-19 diagnoses have climbed steadily during the last three weeks, particularly in states the place colder climate already has pushed folks indoors.

And a few dozen states did not anticipate federal officers to behave earlier than opening boosters to all adults.

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“The direction is not a good one. People are going inside more and, ‘oops,’ next week happens to be the largest travel week of the year, so it probably makes sense to do whatever we can here to try to turn the tide,” Marks told the AP.

Vaccinations began in the US last December, about a year after the coronavirus first emerged. More than 195 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, defined as having received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose J&J. More than 32 million already have received a booster, a large proportion — 17 million — people 65 or older. Experts say that’s reassuring as seniors are at particularly high risk from COVID-19 and were among the first in line for initial vaccinations

Teen boosters aren’t yet under discussion, and kid-sized doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are just now rolling out to children ages 5 to 11.

The Biden administration had originally planned on boosters for all adults but until now, US health authorities — backed by their scientific advisers — had questioned the need for such a widespread campaign. Instead, they first endorsed Pfizer or Moderna boosters only for vulnerable groups such as older Americans or those at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems, their jobs or their living conditions.

This time around, the experts agreed the overall benefits of added protection from a third dose for any adult — six months after their last shot — outweighed risks of rare side effects from Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine, such as a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in young men.

Several other countries have discouraged use of the Moderna vaccine in young people because of that concern, citing data suggesting the rare side effect may occur slightly more with that vaccine than its competitor.

Pfizer told CDC’s advisers that in a booster study of 10,000 people as young as 16, there were no more serious side effects from a third vaccine dose than earlier ones. That study found a booster restored protection against symptomatic infections to about 95% even while the extra-contagious delta variant was surging.

Britain recently released real-world data showing the same jump in protection once it began offering boosters to middle-aged and older adults, and Israel has credited widespread boosters for helping to beat back another wave of the virus.

While the vaccines spur immune memory that protects against severe disease, protection against infection depends on levels of virus-fighting antibodies that wane with time. No one yet knows how long antibody levels will stay high after a booster.

But even a temporary boost in protection against infection may help over the winter and holidays, said CDC’s Dr. Sara Oliver.

Some experts worry that all the attention to boosters may harm efforts to reach the 47 million US adults who remain unvaccinated. There’s also growing concern that rich countries are offering widespread boosters when poor countries haven’t been able to vaccinate more than a small fraction of their populations.

“In terms of the No. 1 priority for reducing transmission in this country and throughout the world, this remains people getting their first vaccine series,” stated Dr. David Dowdy of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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