CDC panel approves Pfizer Covid booster injections for high-risk adults, rejects plan for large-scale distribution across America

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A key advisory group from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Thursday to recommend the distribution of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 booster injections to older Americans, nursing home residents and other vulnerable people, opening the way to the agency to give the final OK this evening.

The agency’s advisory committee on immunization practices unanimously approved the granting of a third Pfizer vaccine to people 65 years of age and older and residents of nursing homes in the first of four votes. The panel also recommended third injections for adults aged 18 to 64 with underlying conditions. Many of these groups were among the first to receive the first injections in December and January.

The panel debated a controversial proposal to give boosters to a large section of the American population, rejecting the 9-6 plan. He allegedly distributed the beatings to nursing home staff, people who live or work in prisons and homeless shelters, frontline health workers, unpaid caregivers and other essential workers, like teachers.

“I mean, we might as well say just give it to everyone 18 and over,” committee member Dr Pablo Sanchez said before voting against the proposal.

Lisa Wilson receives an injection of the Pfizer vaccine at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination site in Orlando, Florida.

Paul Hennessy | SOPA Pictures | LightRocket | Getty Images

Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and former Baltimore health commissioner, on Twitter called the CDC panel’s vote to reject the boosters more broadly as “a mistake.”

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“Really, are we not allowing healthcare workers, many of whom were vaccinated in December, to be reminded?” What about teachers in cramped classrooms where masks are not required? She tweeted, adding that the director, Dr Rochelle Walensky, should rescind the recommendation.

The recommendation doesn’t go as far as President Joe Biden wanted it to. Her administration said she plans to start giving booster shots to people 16 and older this week. While the CDC panel’s recommendation doesn’t give the Biden administration everything it wanted, boosters will still be on the way for the millions of Americans who initially received the injections from Pfizer.

The approval comes a day after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization to administer third injections of Pfizer to many Americans six months after completing their first two doses. While the CDC panel’s recommendation is not binding, Walensky is expected to accept the panel’s approval shortly.

Walensky addressed the committee Thursday before the vote, thanking them for their work and outlining the issues.

“This data is not perfect, but collectively it forms a picture for us, and it is what we have right now to make a decision about the next step in this pandemic,” she said.

Ahead of the vote, some committee members said they were concerned that a wide offer of booster shots could interfere with efforts to get the unvaccinated vaccinated or potentially reduce confidence in the effectiveness of vaccines. Others were frustrated that only Pfizer beneficiaries were eligible to receive the vaccines, leaving out the millions of Americans who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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The vote took place at the end of a two-day meeting, during which CDC advisers listened to several presentations on the data to support the wide distribution of the booster injections, including a presentation from a cadre of Pfizer who posted data showing that a third injection appears to be safe. and increase antibody levels in recipients.

In a presentation Thursday, CDC official Dr Sara Oliver presented observational studies of Israel, where officials began vaccinating the country’s population before many other countries and began offering a third injection to their citizens at the end of July.

Israel’s data has been criticized by at least one FDA official because so-called observational studies do not adhere to the same standards as formal clinical trials.

“We can use Israel’s experience to inform our knowledge of the safety of recalls,” said Oliver, adding that the country had only reported one case of rare heart inflammation known as myocarditis on nearly 3 million third doses administered.

CDC head Dr. Kathleen Dooling said the data also suggests that a third dose may reduce the risk of serious illness in the elderly and those with co-morbidities. Potential risks include myocarditis, although this risk is very rare, occurring mainly in men under the age of 30, she said.

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“The third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine appears to have similar reactogenicity to that of the second dose,” she added.

The question of who should get boosters and when has been a controversial topic in the scientific community since the Biden administration presented its plan for the large-scale distribution of boosters last month.

In an article published days before an FDA advisory meeting last week, a group of leading scientists said available data showed vaccine protection against serious illnesses persists, even though efficacy against mild illnesses. decreases over time. The authors, including two senior FDA officials and several scientists from the World Health Organization, argued in the medical journal The Lancet that wide dissemination of booster injections to the general public is not appropriate for the moment.

Outlining plans last month to begin handing out boosters as early as this week, officials in the Biden administration cited three CDC studies that showed vaccine protection against Covid declined over several months. Senior health officials said at the time that they feared protection against serious illness, hospitalizations and death “might” wane in the coming months, especially among those at higher risk or who were vaccinated during the early stages of the vaccination rollout.

–Robert Towey of UKTN contributed to this report.

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