US regulator approves Pfizer booster vaccine for seniors, high-risk
The US has moved a step closer to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed off on the targeted use of extra jabs.
The FDA authorised booster doses for Americans who are 65 and older, younger adults with underlying health conditions and those in jobs that put them at high risk for Covid-19.
The ruling represents a drastically scaled back version of the Biden administration’s sweeping plan to give third doses to nearly all American adults to shore up their protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
However, more regulatory hurdles lie ahead before the dispensing of boosters can begin.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opened a two-day meeting on Wednesday to make their own, more specific recommendations about who should get the extra shots and when.
And in their first day of discussions, some experts were so perplexed by the questions surrounding the rationale for boosters that they suggested putting off a decision for a month in hopes of more evidence.
The uncertainties were yet another reminder that the science surrounding boosters is more complicated than the Biden administration suggested when the president and his top aides rolled out their plan at the White House last month.
The FDA decision was expected after the agency’s own panel of advisers last week overwhelmingly rejected the president’s plan.
The panel instead recommended boosters only for those most vulnerable to severe cases of Covid-19.
FDA acting commissioner Dr Janet Woodcock said in a statement that the FDA authorisation would allow for boosters in health care workers, teachers, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons.
Dr Woodcock said: “As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed.
Under the FDA authorisation, vaccinated Americans are eligible for a third dose six months after receiving their second Pfizer jab.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki wrote on Twitter: “Today’s FDA decision is a major step forward in our effort to provide Americans with additional protection from COVID-19.
“We have been preparing for weeks to administer booster shots to eligible Americans and are ready to do so following CDC’s final recommendation later this week.”