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Pfizer Boosters Approved for Those Most at Risk as CDC Director Exceeds Her Own Panel's Recommendations

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Shortly after the FDA gave the green light for people over 65 to get a booster shot at least six months after their last shot, the CDC signed off Thursday night giving final approval. 
Pfizer's booster shot received the endorsement of a final panel of independent advisors with the CDC in a 9-to-6 vote. It comes after an FDA panel said last week the data was not strong enough to advocate an extra shot for a majority of Americans, only for senior citizens and others who are most at risk. 

The CDC panel recommended a booster for people over 65, nursing home residents, people who are over 50 with underlying health problems, and immuno-compromised people over the age of 18. The panel stopped shy of giving the go-ahead for frontline workers. 

But in a surprising swing, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky reversed one recommendation by her own advisors and authorized the booster for health care workers, teachers, and other frontline workers, giving a big boost for the president's vaccination campaign.

Walensky explained why she bypassed the CDC panel's recommendation to make her own decision. "At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good," she said.
Despite the White House's full-court press for boosters, Thursday's decision is a significant scale back from the administration's initial plan to dispense Pfizer boosters to everyone, even teens 16 and up. 

And while the boosters for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson wait their turn for approval, hospitals around the country continue to deal with the Delta variant, which has hit the unvaccinated at far higher rates. 
The Pfizer booster shot decision was founded on trial data from Israel where a third shot is already being given, despite objections from the World Health Organization purporting poor countries don't have enough for their first dose. 
Wednesday, President Biden announced the purchase of an additional 500-million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to countries with limited access to their first dose. The goal is to vaccinate 70% of the world's population by June of 2022. 

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