Health

US Opens COVID Boosters For All Adults, Calls For 50+

On Friday, the US opened COVID-19 booster shots for all adults and took the extra step of encouraging people 50 and older to do so in a bid to stave off the winter spike as coronavirus cases rise even before millions of Americans go on vacation.

Until now, Americans have been faced with a confusing list of eligible boosters that varied based on age, health status, and the type of vaccine they received in the first place. The FDA has approved changes to the Pfizer and Moderna boosters to make things easier.

Under the new rules, anyone 18 years of age or older can choose a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait was already only two months. And people can combine boosters from any company.

“We’ve heard loud and clear that people need something simpler — and I think it’s simple,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks told The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to agree before the new policy became official on Friday. CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walenski endorsed the recommendation of her agency’s scientific advisers, who, in addition to offering boosters to all adults, emphasized that people 50 and older should be strongly encouraged to take them.

Midwest viral spike worsens as states expand boosters

“This is a stronger recommendation,” said CDC advisor Dr. Matthew Daly of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure we provide the maximum protection.”

The CDC also called on those who have previously qualified but haven’t signed up for the booster to stop postponing it – stating that older Americans and people with risks such as obesity, diabetes, or other health problems should try to get it. before the holidays.

The expansion enables tens of millions more Americans to receive an additional dose of protection.

Priority # 1 for the US and the world continues to be to provide more unvaccinated people with their first doses. All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States continue to provide robust protection against serious illness, including hospitalization and death, without booster vaccinations.

But protection against infection can weaken over time, and the US and many countries in Europe are also trying to decide how widely to recommend boosters as they grapple with the winter wave of new cases. In the United States, the number of COVID-19 diagnoses has grown steadily over the past three weeks, especially in states where colder weather has already driven people into their homes.

And about a dozen states didn’t wait for federal action before opening boosters to all adults.

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“The direction is not good. People are coming in more and more often and, “oops”, next week will be the biggest travel week of the year, so it probably makes sense to do everything in our power to try to turn the tide, “Marx told AP.

Vaccinations began in the United States last December, about a year after the first appearance of the coronavirus. More than 195 million Americans are currently fully vaccinated, defined as having received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of J&J. More than 32 million people have already received revaccinations, the majority – 17 million – are people 65 years of age and older. Experts say this is reassuring as older adults are at particularly high risk of contracting COVID-19 and were among the first in line for primary vaccinations.

Rocket boosters for teens are yet to be discussed, and Pfizer’s baby doses of vaccine are only now being distributed to children ages 5-11.

The Biden administration originally planned to introduce boosters for all adults, but until now, US health authorities, with the support of their scientific advisers, have questioned the need for such a large-scale campaign. Instead, they first approved Pfizer or Moderna boosters only for vulnerable groups such as older Americans or people at high risk of COVID-19 due to health problems, their jobs, or living conditions.

This time, experts agreed that the overall benefits of additional protection from a third dose for any adult – six months after the last shot – outweigh the risks of rare side effects from Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, such as heart inflammation, seen mostly in young men.

Several other countries have discouraged the use of the Moderna vaccine in young adults because of this concern, citing evidence that rare side effects may be slightly stronger with the vaccine than with its competitor.

Pfizer told CDC consultants that in a booster study of 10,000 people aged 16, there were no more serious side effects from the third dose of the vaccine than from the previous ones. This study found that the booster restored protection against symptomatic infections to about 95%, even when the extra-infectious delta variant increased.

The UK recently released real-world data showing a similar jump in protection after it began offering boosters for middle-aged and older people, and Israel credited widespread boosters for helping to ward off a new wave of the virus.

Although vaccines stimulate immune memory, which protects against severe illness, protection against infections depends on levels of antibodies that fight the virus, which weaken over time. No one knows yet how long antibody levels will remain high after booster vaccinations.

But even temporarily boosting protection against infection can help during the winter and holidays, said Dr. Sarah Oliver of the CDC.

Some experts fear that all the focus on boosters could hurt efforts to reach the 47 million US adults who remain unvaccinated. There is also growing concern that rich countries are offering widespread booster vaccinations when poor countries have been unable to vaccinate more than a small fraction of their populations.

“As far as priority # 1 to reduce transmission in this country and around the world, it continues to give people their first batch of vaccines,” said Dr. David Dowdy of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.


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