Coronavirus: US extends boosters to all adults

WASHINGTON – The United States on Friday opened its COVID-19 booster shot to all adults and took it one step further to encourage those 50 and older to seek one, aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. spikes during the winter as coronavirus cases rise even before millions of Americans travel for the holidays.

So far, Americans have faced a confusing list of who’s eligible for a booster shot, which varies by their age, health, and which vaccines they get first. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized changes to the Pfizer and Moderna boosters to make it easier.

Under the new rules, anyone 18 years of age or older can choose the booster pills Pfizer or Moderna six months after their last dose. For anyone who’s had a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the waiting time is just two months. And people can combine enhancers from any company.

“We heard very loudly and clearly that people needed something simpler — and this, I think, was simple,” FDA vaccine director Dr. Peter Marks told The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to agree before the new policy could be made official late on Friday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed a recommendation from her agency’s scientific advisers that – in addition to providing all adults with a booster dose – emphasized that people over the age of 50 and above should be encouraged to use a booster.

“It’s a stronger recommendation,” said CDC advisor Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure we provide as much protection as we can.”

The CDC also issued an enhanced call for people who were previously eligible but not yet enrolled to waive it — saying that older Americans and those with risk factors such as obesity, diabetes or other health problems. The other healthy should try one before the holiday.

The expansion makes tens of millions of Americans eligible for additional protection.

The number one priority for the United States and the world remains to attract more unvaccinated people to their first doses. All three COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States continue to provide strong protection against severe illness, including hospitalization and death, without the need for booster shots.

However, the ability to protect against infection can fade over time, and the United States and many countries in Europe are also grappling with how widely recommended for enhanced drug use is when they against a new wave of cases. In the United States, COVID-19 diagnoses have steadily increased over the past three weeks, especially in states where colder weather has kept people indoors.

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

“The direction is not a good one. People are going inwards more and, unfortunately, next week is the biggest travel week of the year, so maybe we have to do whatever we can. maybe here to try to turn things around,” Marks told the AP.

Vaccination began in the US last December, about a year after the coronavirus first emerged. More than 195 million Americans are now fully immunized, defined as having received two single doses of Pfizer or Moderna or J&J vaccines. More than 32 million have been boosted, a large proportion – 17 million – of people aged 65 and over. Experts say that’s reassuring because the elderly are at particularly high risk from COVID-19 and are among the first in line for initial immunizations.

Adolescent boosters have yet to be discussed, and child-sized doses of the Pfizer vaccine are currently being rolled out to children 5 to 11 years of age.

The Biden administration originally planned the boosters for all adults, but so far, US health authorities – backed by their scientific advisers – have questioned the need. necessity of such an extensive campaign. Instead, they first confirmed the Pfizer or Moderna boosters are only intended for vulnerable groups like older Americans or those at high risk of COVID-19 because of health, work, or health issues. their living conditions.

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

Several other countries have discouraged the use of the Moderna vaccine in young people because of that concern, citing data showing that rare side effects are slightly more likely to occur with that vaccine. with its competitors.

Pfizer told CDC advisers that in a booster study of 10,000 16-year-olds, there were no more serious side effects from the third dose of vaccine than from previous doses. That study showed recovery-enhancing protection against symptomatic infections by about 95% even as the contagious Delta variant was on the rise.

The UK has recently released actual data showing a similar level of protection as it began providing boosters to the elderly and middle-aged, and Israel has credited boosters with a large area of ​​help. beat back another wave of viruses.

While vaccines that promote immune memory protect against severe illness, protection against infection dependent on levels of antibodies against the virus wanes over time. No one knows how long the antibody levels will remain high after the booster shot.

But even a temporary boost in infection protection can be helpful during the winter and holidays, said Dr. Sara Oliver of the CDC.

Some experts worry that all the attention to boosters could harm efforts to reach the 47 million adults in the US who are still unvaccinated. There are growing concerns that rich nations are widely supplying stimulant drugs as poor nations are unable to immunize more than a small fraction of their populations.

Dr David Dowdy of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said: “Given the number one priority to reduce transmission in this country and around the world, this is still getting people to receive the first batch of vaccines. their”.


The Associated Press Health and Science Division receives support from the Howard Hughes Health Institute’s Science Education Department. AP is solely responsible for all content.


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