On Thursday, September 24, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for a wide range of Americans. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the ACIP recommendations and added an additional recommendation for those in high risk occupational and institutional settings, which is in line with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authorization. After the panel adjourned, Dr. Walensky said “As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact. 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.”
With the Delta variant surging and cases of COVID-19 increasing significantly across the United States, a booster shot will help provide continued protection against severe disease in these populations who are especially at risk for severe COVID-19. The CDC recommends a booster dose at least six months after completing the first two dose series of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for:
- People 65 years of age and older and residents of long-term care facilities. Residents in long-term care (LTC) settings live closely together in group settings and are often older adults and/or have underlying medical conditions, they are at increased risk of infection and severe illness from COVID-19.
- Individuals 50-64 years of age with underlying medical conditions receive a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot.
- Individuals 18-49 years of age with underlying medical conditions may also receive a booster if they determine the personal benefits outweigh the risks. The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age and can also increase for adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions.
- People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting.
The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster. They will continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines to ensure appropriate recommendations to keep all American safe.
All three COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson/Janssen) are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the Delta variant. At this time, the FDA’s Pfizer booster authorization only applies to those who received the Pfizer vaccine as their primary series. People in the recommended age groups who received the Moderna or J&J/Janssen vaccine will likely need a booster shot, and more data on the effectiveness and safety of these booster shots are expected in the coming weeks.