Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday that her agency “would really encourage people over 50 who have underlying medical conditions and those over 65” to receive a second reminder. .
His remarks at a White House briefing were his clearest statement yet on who should get what for most people amounts to a fourth strike against the coronavirus.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a second booster of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for everyone over 50 and many immunocompromised people, four months after the first booster. At the time, Dr Walensky said the option was “particularly important” for people over 65, as well as those over 50 with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or ‘obesity. Still, ahead of Tuesday’s briefing, some health experts said they were unsure whether to recommend the second booster for those groups.
“I think there’s confusion,” said Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas health secretary who chairs the CDC’s external expert advisory committee on vaccine policy. He said leaders of some other state health departments expressed the same reaction.
“It was a little difficult for our communications department to come up with the infographic on how to explain” who should get the second booster and with which vaccine, added Dr. Romero.
The decision to offer a second booster continues to spark controversy, with some immunologists and vaccine experts saying the federal government doesn’t have enough data to justify the move, at least for people between the ages of 50 and 65. Some of these reviews will likely air on Wednesday. at a public meeting of the FDA’s external expert advisory committee where the broader US recall strategy is expected to be discussed.
More than 33 million people aged 65 or over have already had their first booster and are eligible for the second booster, along with millions more aged 50 or over.
Federal regulators initially leaned to give everyone 60 or 65 and older the chance for a second booster, based largely on data from Israel, which has been giving the extra hit to 60-and-over since early January. . They decided to include people as young as 50, they said last week, because about a third of Americans between 50 and 65 have serious health problems.
Dr. Peter Marks, head of vaccine regulation for the FDA, said trying to limit eligibility to certain people with chronic conditions would have been too confusing.
In an interview on the “In the Bubble” podcast this week, he said: “Unfortunately, medical comorbidities are often in the eye of the beholder.” Some people with such conditions don’t realize it, he said, while others may pretend to have it when in fact they don’t.
Federal regulators said people could choose between the two brands of mRNA vaccines for their second booster, regardless of the brand of their first booster. Asked on the podcast whether people should choose a different booster to their previous shots, Dr Marks said if there was “a bit of data” that switching the vaccine might offer better protection, “probably the most important thing is just to get boosted with any vaccine you can get.
Dr. Nirav D. Shah, head of the Maine state health agency and president of the Association of State and Territory Health Officials, said regulators were right to make age the only criterion this time. When the federal government launched the first booster shots in the fall, he said, the CDC’s eligibility criteria, with age and health conditions as factors, baffled many people.
He said he tried to further simplify the CDC’s guidance on second boosters last week for Maine residents. “I tried to clear up some of the confusion with clarity on our part,” he said.
The day after the CDC updated his guidelines, he said, “I just took to Twitter and said, ‘You know what, if you’re eligible, you should just do it.
In Maine, adoption was rapid. “Our vaccination numbers have increased over the past couple of days,” Dr Shah said.
Not in Arkansas. “It’s a trickle, a trickle,” Dr. Romero said.