CDC Directory Walensky Approves Boosters For Everyone Over 18: NPR

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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has given the green light to the recommendation that booster shots be made available to all people 18 years of age and older. A CDC advisory committee voted in favor of the recommendation beforehand.



AILSA CHANG, HOST:

This afternoon, a vaccine advisory committee to the CDC voted unanimously to recommend that booster shots be made available to everyone 18 years of age and older. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has now given the green light to the recommendation. Earlier today, the FDA extended authorization for Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, allowing recalls for all adults. Allison Aubrey from NPR is joining us now.

Hi, Allison.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hello, good to be here.

CHANG: Glad to have you. OK, so this is a big change – isn’t it? – for a few months, when booster shots were only recommended for the elderly and only those at high risk. Can you explain to us how it all unfolded?

AUBREY: Yeah, it’s a big change. I mean, a few months ago when FDA and CDC advisers were asked to comment on the boosters, there wasn’t a lot of data, Ailsa, to show they were needed. Now, throughout, President Biden’s closest COVID advisers have maintained that the United States should be proactive, that we shouldn’t wait for vaccine protection to wane, that we should anticipate it. So the White House messages got a step ahead of the science, but now things have changed. There is data to show that boosters can be beneficial. And it is clear that among the elderly who were among the first to be vaccinated, immunity has started to wane, and a booster dose can, as the name suggests, boost protection.

CHANGE: Okay. Well, for all adults, not just the elderly, what is the new evidence to support boosters for each of them?

AUBREY: Well, some of the most recent real-world data is from England. In September, the UK government launched a recall program targeting people aged 50 and over. I spoke to Dr Anthony Fauci about a new analysis from the UK which shows a significant increase in protection against symptomatic COVID infection from a booster dose. He’s there.

ANTHONY FAUCI: What they’ve shown is that if you look at the third dose in people whose protection has dropped to around 63%, you go back up to at least 94%, which is really pretty impressive.

AUBREY: And what do you want to see from a booster, he said. Now in the United States, the CDC has highlighted data from nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country, which shows the disease rate is significantly lower among people in those facilities who have received the reminder.

CHANGE: Okay. It is therefore for people a little older. But what about young people in their twenties and thirties who are relatively healthy? Do they really need a booster?

AUBREY: You know, the stakes are much higher for the elderly. It’s clear. There has been a lot of talk about this today, Ailsa, suggesting that the recommendation should be stronger for people 50 and over, that they should get the booster. But young people are getting breakthrough infections, and there is data showing that a third injection stimulates antibodies in young people and may be of benefit. Now keep in mind that at this time the cases of COVID are on the increase. We are at about 88,000 cases per day. About 85% of counties in the United States currently have high or substantial levels of the virus spread. So Dr Fauci says given the situation and the season, boosters make sense.

FAUCI: So my recommendation would be, especially as the winter months and the holiday season approach where there is a lot of gathering inside, I would recommend if you are eligible for a boost go get boosted now.

AUBREY: Because a booster can lower your chances of getting infected, and if you’re not infected, you clearly can’t pass it on to someone else.

CHANG: Absolutely. This is NPR’s Allison Aubrey.

Thanks Allison.

AUBREY: Thanks Ailsa.

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