The U.S. vaccination against Covid-19 was on the verge of a new serious phase, as on Thursday advisory advisers recommended increasing doses of Pfizer vaccine for millions of seniors or other vulnerable Americans — despite doubts, additional shots would significantly slow the pandemic.
Counselors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said accelerators should be offered to people 65 and older, residents of nursing homes and people aged 50 to 64 who have serious health problems. An additional dose will be given if they have passed at least six months after the last vaccine in Pfizer.
Deciding who else could get it was much harder. Although there is little evidence that young people are at risk of lowered immunity, a group of experts has suggested boosting opportunities for those aged 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want them.
But counselors have refused to go further and open boosters for healthy healthcare workers who are not at risk of serious illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.
“We could just say to give it to everyone 18 and older. We have a very effective vaccine, and it’s like saying, ‘It doesn’t work.’ It works,” said Dr. Pablo Sanchez of Ohio State University, who helped block the widest version of the amp.
However, unvaccinated first shots remain a top priority, and the panel struggled with whether to distract the accelerating discussion from that goal.
All three vaccines against COVID-19 used in the United States continue to strongly protect against serious illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the backdrop of the spread of the contagious Delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, only 55% of the population.
“We can give accelerators to people, but that’s not exactly the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Cape Talbat of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We refuse to help people who deserve help because we are full of unvaccinated covid-positive patients. ”
Thursday’s decision was a drastic reduction in the Biden administration’s plan, announced last month, to deliver almost all accelerators to ensure their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC, signed the introduction of Pfizer boosters for a much more targeted share of the U.S. population than the White House had anticipated.
The CDC must determine the final U.S. policy regarding who is eligible for the extra shot. The CDC usually follows the recommendations of its advisors. The agency’s final decision was expected later Thursday.
The acceleration plan marks an important shift in the country’s vaccination. The UK and Israel are already making a third round against the World Health Organization’s strong objections that poor countries are short of initial doses.
CDC advisers have expressed concern that millions more Americans received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson injections early in the spread of the vaccine. The government still does not consider accelerators for these brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix and match and give these people Pfizer.
About 26 million Americans received their last dose of Pfizer at least six months ago, about half of them 65 years and older. It is unclear how much more will match the initial qualification of the CDC panel.
CDC data show that vaccines still provide strong protection for all ages, but among the elderly there is a small drop. Immunity to mild infection seems to decline a few months after people’s primary immunization.