Walensky: CDC will ‘not articulate a preference’ for which booster to get

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Greg Nash

Rochelle Walensky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, said on Friday that the agency will “not articulate a preference” for which booster shot vaccine recipients should get, after the CDC officially approved the mix-and-match approach.

The CDC director, who signed off on mix-and-match boosters Thursday night, said people eligible for a booster can decide which brand of vaccine to get as all three Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized vaccines are “extraordinarily safe” and “effective.”

At the same time, she said it’s “perfectly fine” for recipients of all three vaccines to have a “preference” to get the same vaccine they initially received.

“We will not articulate a preference,” Walensky said during a briefing.

“The recommendations made yesterday are yet another demonstration of our fundamental commitment to all of you to never lose sight of our collective goal to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19,” she added.

Walensky predicts that most people will stick with their original vaccination series, but said “there may be some people who might prefer another vaccine over the one that they received, and the current CDC recommendations now make that possible.” 

But the CDC cautioned that the booster doses are not the solution to ultimately ending the pandemic. 

“As you have heard me say before, we will not boost our way out of this pandemic and no vaccine, even a boosted vaccine, provides 100 percent protection,” Walensky said. “So, even after your boost, it remains important for us to remain smart about our prevention strategies while we still have over 93 percent of our U.S. counties with high or moderate community transmission.”

In addition to mix-and-match boosters, the FDA and CDC gave permission for certain Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients to get another dose, expanding access to boosters for millions. White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients siad the move made 70 million eligible as of Friday for the extra dose. 

More than 120 million Americans will become eligible “in the coming months” he said. 

But because not all people are eligible for a booster shot, Walensky said the definition of fully vaccinated will not change. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second mRNA dose or after their single Johnson & Johnson dose. 

“We may need to update our definition of fully vaccinated in the future, but right now what I would say is if you’re eligible for a booster go ahead and get your booster,” she said.

The FDA and CDC currently permit adult Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna recipients who are aged 65 and older, living in long-term care facilities, have certain underlying conditions and are at increased risk due to their occupation to get a booster dose at least six months after the initial series.

All Johnson & Johnson recipients can get their booster at least two months after their single shot. 

Tags booster doses boosters CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 COVID-19 boosters COVID-19 vaccine FDA Food and Drug Administration Jeff Zients mix-and-match doses Rochelle Walensky

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