CDC panel endorses COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all adults

A key outside advisory group to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has endorsed the use of COVID-19 booster shots for all adults, a one-size-fits-all approach designed to simplify eligibility.

If CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyFauci: Omicron appears to be less severe Officials seek to reassure public over omicron fears The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Omicron tests vaccines; Bob Dole dies at 98 MORE signs off on the broader use, as expected, the extra shots will be available immediately to all adults, as long as they are six months past the final dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two months after a Johnson & Johnson dose. 

The recommendation from the panel comes just hours after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized both Pfizer and Moderna's booster shots for everyone over the age of 18.

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Pfizer applied to the FDA earlier this month for an expansion of the emergency authorization for its booster shot to make it available to anyone 18 or older. Moderna announced just this week that it too had asked the FDA to allow its booster to be given to all adults.

Boosters for everyone has always been the Biden administration’s goal, but until now federal health authorities have stopped short of such a policy, and instead recommended boosters for only specific populations — those over age 65, anyone at high risk because of work or where they live, or those with an underlying medical condition.

The primary COVID-19 vaccination continues to provide good protection against severe disease and death, even as effectiveness against milder infection has waned. But cases have been steadily rising across the country, and authorities have said they want to stave off another winter surge.

The current recommendations, while fairly broad, have caused confusion. While people over the age of 65 are most at risk from waning vaccine immunity, fewer than 40 percent of them have received a booster, according to CDC data. 

"The current guidelines, though well-intentioned and thoughtful, generate an obstacle to uptake of boosters. In pursuit of precision, they create confusion," Nirav Shah, president of Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told the panel.

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The panel did not make a distinction in their recommendation between the two types of mRNA vaccines, despite the potential for increased risk of myocarditis — a type of heart inflammation — in young men after receiving Moderna's vaccine. 

CDC officials told the panel it's too early to draw conclusions on the risk of myocarditis after the third dose of mRNA vaccines, because teens and younger adults haven't yet been boosted in large enough numbers.  

Several other countries have discouraged use of the Moderna vaccine in people younger than 30 because of that risk.