Update: On Wednesday September 22, the FDA approved the use of Pfizer booster shots 6 months after vaccination for people over 65 and individuals at high-risk of becoming severly ill from Covid-19 infections, following advisory board reccomendations.
On September 17, a panel of advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously voted to recommend individuals ages 65 and older and those at high-risk of contracting severe COVID-19 receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot at least six months after initial vaccination. Notably, the panel voted against recommending booster shots for all eligible individuals ages 16 and older.
The independent advisory group of physician researchers, statisticians, medical faculty, and other scientific experts acknowledged that data indicates that vaccine protection decreases over time. However, members of the group were concerned about the quality of data related to the long-term effectiveness of a booster, and the lack of safety data for younger individuals, specifically those age 16-17, which led to the 16-2 majority vote against providing boosters for all individuals.
A separate advisory panel for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet on September 29 to further clarify the parameters for the administration of Pfizer’s booster shot, which will include outlining who would be considered “high risk” under these new guidelines. This could include those with underlying health conditions such as obesity and individuals working in high COVID-19 exposure settings like hospital and other healthcare workers.
This announcement follows an August 13 decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) which recommended a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised individuals, as well as the FDA’s amendment of its emergency use authorization (EUA) to authorize a third dose for individuals with a reduced ability to fight diseases.
The FDA advisory group decision delays the previously timeline put forth by the Biden Administration to begin distributing vaccine boosters to the general public on September 20, however counties should continue to plan for broad distribution in preparation for an eventual approval. As key providers of local public health services and frontline service providers for the medically vulnerable, counties have supported over 150 million adult vaccinations in the U.S. to date and will continue to play an essential role in the administration of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters.
- NACo’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Toolkit
- NACo Brief: The County Role in Vaccines
- NACo Blog: HHS announces plan to distribute booster shots to all Americans in September