Walensky made her recommendation just hours after CDC vaccine advisors voted unanimously to recommend booster doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines for all U.S. adults six months after they finished their first two doses.
The recommendations simplify previous, complicated guidelines for boosters.
“CDC continues to encourage the 47 million adults who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves, their families, loved ones and communities,” the CDC said in a statement.
“We also strongly encourage those already eligible — older populations and individuals with underlying medical conditions — to get a boost before the holidays.”
Previously, boosters were approved for anyone 65 and older who had been vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, and for certain adults at high risk of infection or serious illness. Friday’s vote streamlines this and makes it clear that every adult should or can receive a booster six months after finishing the first two doses.
Recent field studies have suggested that immunity to Covid-19 vaccines is beginning to wane and protection may be waning, especially against milder and asymptomatic diseases. Studies have shown that booster doses restore that immunity.
Members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices heard safety data from the CDC, from Pfizer, and from Moderna showing that the boosters did not cause any troubling side effects. The most common reactions are injection site pain, headache and fatigue.
“Following a critical scientific review, today’s unanimous decision carefully reviewed the current state of the pandemic, the latest data on vaccine effectiveness over time, and the review of safety data from people already receiving a primary vaccine series and booster for COVID-19 have been taken into consideration,” Walensky said. in a statement.
“Booster shots have shown its ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and serious consequences and are an important public health tool to bolster our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter break,” she added.
“Based on compelling evidence, all adults over the age of 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.”
The mood comes just in time for people to get boosters for the holidays, Dr. Sara Oliver of the CDC at the meeting. Even if the extra immunity provided by boosters doesn’t last long, she said, it can help.
“Even temporary protection can play a role in the benefit-risk balance, especially as we approach the winter holidays with more travel and holiday gatherings,” Oliver said.
dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN this week that recent data from Israel shows that among people 60 and older, those who received a booster were less likely to become seriously ill than vaccinated people who did not receive a booster. had gotten. The number of serious illnesses remained highest among those who had not been vaccinated.
The majority of adults were already eligible for boosters, and several states have already taken steps to open boosters to all adults.
‘Everyone is eligible’
Expanding booster eligibility to all adults in the United States may not change the logistics of getting shot in the guns.
Booster vaccine offerings are already established in many places. There are no “extra steps” on the administrative side of the booster rollout that need to be done, Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN.
“Nationally, we have enough vaccine. There are a lot of places with appointments. Of course that varies a bit depending on where you live geographically, because there is more demand in some areas than in others,” Casalotti told CNN.
“But having said that, I think the most important preparation is on the communication side,” Casalotti added. “The communication for the local health care providers and public health departments is that now you don’t have to worry about eligibility if someone asks if they need a booster. Here’s the information – everyone is eligible after six months.”
According to CDC data, about 32 million people in the United States — about 17% of those who are fully vaccinated — have received a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
According to CDC data, about 18 million seniors have received a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, which accounts for more than half of all booster doses administered and boosts the immune response for more than a third of fully vaccinated seniors.
The future of boosters
The US now has an average of 94,943 new Covid-19 cases per day, according to Johns Hopkins University – a 31% increase from last week and back to levels last seen more than a month ago. Midwestern states account for more than a third (38%) of new cases.
There is concern that winter weather is driving people indoors and holiday gatherings could lead to even more cases.
“We definitely want people to be as protected as possible into the season,” said Dr. Marci Drees, chief infection prevention officer and hospital epidemiologist for ChristianaCare of Delaware.
Drees is a liaison between the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America and the CDC’s Vaccine Advisory Committee.
“I think we’re now at the point where for a lot of people who were vaccinated last winter and spring, now their protection is waning,” she said.
Once people receive their Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, it’s not clear when they might need another vaccine dose — if ever.
“That’s definitely the million dollar question. We know that the boosters boost people’s immunity back to that 90% to 95% in the short term. We don’t know how long that will last,” Drees said.
“In some ways, we’re going down a new path — and a lot of it is driven by whether we can get enough immunity in the population so that we can really stop further transmission,” Drees said. “We know that boosters will not end the pandemic. They will help and prevent people from getting sick, but we really still need to make sure that people get the first and second doses as well.”
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.