The United States on Wednesday authorized the use of boosters of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for people over 65 or adults at high risk of serious illness, as well as for those in high-exposure jobs.
The announcement means that tens of millions of Americans are now eligible for a third vaccine once six months have passed since the second.
“Today’s action demonstrates that the science and data currently available continue to guide the FDA’s decision-making for COVID-19 vaccines during this pandemic,” said Janet Woodcock, acting director of the Food and Drug Administration.
The decision was expected and came after a panel of independent experts convened by the regulatory agency last week voted to recommend the measure.
However, the same group rejected an initial proposal, put forward by Pfizer and endorsed by the administration of President Joe Biden, to fully approve the boosters for all people over 16 years of age.
The panel, which included vaccinologists, infectious disease researchers, and epidemiologists, concluded that the benefit-risk balance differed for younger people, especially men at risk for myocarditis.
The boosters for Pfizer are currently being debated by a separate body of experts convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who can recommend more details on the recipients.
For example, if obesity puts a person “at high risk for severe Covid,” that definition would encompass more than 42 percent of the US population.
CDC may also have to decide which workplaces and other settings could lead to “frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.”
For its part, the FDA included “healthcare workers, daycare teachers and staff, grocery workers, and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others.”
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients will now wait for news when they too may be eligible for another opportunity.