Key CDC panel recommends expanding COVID-19 boosters to all adults in US

Posted at 3:27 PM, Nov 19, 2021

A key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) panel voted on Friday to expand eligibility for boosters of Moderna and Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for all U.S. adults.

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the additional shots to everyone in the U.S. 18 and up, clearing the way for millions more to seek out extra protection from COVID-19. The CDC Director now needs to give the final approval.

“The boosters are amazingly effective," said Dr. Michael Teng, an Associate Professor at USF Health. "If you take some of the data that they’ve shown with the Pfizer booster data, it gets back up to that 90 percent efficacy versus people who have been already vaccinated, so you get a really high level of immunity.”

The vote on Friday came the same day that the FDA amended the emergency use authorizations for both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines authorizing use of a booster dose for all U.S. adults.

Dr. Teng explains side effects seem to be about the same. He pointed to a concerning rise in cases in Europe now as we head into the holidays.

“If you can get that booster, the booster helps both prevent infection. It also helps decrease transmission, and of course, with decreased transmission and decreased infection, you’ll have decreased hospitalizations and deaths," said Teng.

Teng says to be clear, he thinks having the primary series of vaccine still protects pretty well against hospitalization and death, but says the booster prevents infections even more. Health experts hope boosters offer an extra layer of protection during the pandemic.

"The vaccine is a big one. Put a booster, that makes that slice even bigger, bigger protection between you and the virus," said Teng. "Then you add the masks and distancing and making sure that your gatherings either are in well-ventilated areas, you don't have too many people. All the things we’ve been doing previously. Add that together, and you’re going to have a much, much safer holiday season.”

Earlier in the fall, the FDA and the CDC approved booster shots of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for people aged 65 and up, people who have underlying health conditions that make them susceptible to the virus, and those who are at an increased risk of contracting the virus because of their job or living situation.

Earlier this month, regulators approved the mixing and matching of vaccine brands when it comes to booster shots.

The CDC reports that more than 32 million Americans have already gotten a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot.