(HealthDay News) — The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for people older than 65 years and for those at high risk for severe COVID-19. Under the emergency use authorization, the booster shots should be given at least 6 months after a person is fully vaccinated.
Wednesday’s move is likely the beginning of a staggered campaign to deliver booster shots to all Americans, starting with the most vulnerable.
“Today’s action demonstrates that science and the currently available data continue to guide the FDA’s decision making for COVID-19 vaccines during this pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said in an agency news release. “After considering the totality of the available scientific evidence and the deliberations of our advisory committee of independent, external experts, the FDA amended the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allow for a booster dose in certain populations, such as health care workers, teachers, and day care staff, grocery workers, and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others.”
Still, exactly who qualifies as high risk because of health or work reasons is not crystal clear yet. That is expected to be clarified by an advisory panel to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is in the midst of a 2-day meeting on the issue, The New York Times reported. Even if the CDC panel takes a different stance than the FDA did on the need for boosters, health care providers are now authorized to offer these third shots to eligible people who received the Pfizer vaccine.
Those at higher risk for COVID-19 complications because of health reasons may include as many as 60% of Americans who have obesity and other chronic medical conditions, The Times reported. About 22 million Americans received their second doses about 6 months ago, and half of them are now eligible by age.