Who should get COVID vaccine boosters

Coronavirus Facts First

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Both the FDA and CDC are making recommendations when it comes to who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster.

Dr. Jeff Harp from Highland Family Medicine explained what those recommendations are and what they mean for you Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Both the FDA and the CDC made recommendations about booster vaccines last week. I thought boosters are already being given.

Yes, the FDA previously authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for severely immunocompromised people such as those taking medication that suppress their immune system and those with conditions that create a weak immune system such as occurs in advanced or untreated HIV disease. These new recommendations cover a broader range of people.

Why are there two government organizations making recommendations?

The two organizations have different purposes and perspectives. The FDA makes recommendations about whether specific medications and immunizations should be used for certain purposes. In this case, the FDA recommendations apply specifically to the Pfizer Covid vaccine, for example. The CDC makes recommendations from a public health perspective, recommending treatments, including immunizations, which will improve the health of the entire population without causing harm.

So, what are the recommendations?

The FDA and CDC agree in most areas. People over 65, people aged 50 to 64 with serious medical conditions, and people living in long-term care facilities (regardless of their age) should be boosted. These people are likely to have either an inadequate immune response to the first vaccine series, repeated exposure to Covid, or both. Boosters for people under 65 without serious conditions are not recommended because current evidence shows that protection against severe disease remains high after the first series even if their antibody levels drop. The FDA recommended boosters for people who are likely to be exposed in the workplace while the CDC advisory panel did not, but the CDC director then added that recommendation based on reviewing the findings of the advisory panel and the FDA.

Where do they differ?

The FDA endorsed boosters for all people aged 18-49 with serious health conditions, while the CDC said this should be at the discretion of the person after discussing it with a health care clinician since there is less evidence these people will benefit from a booster and possibly an increased risk of side effects.

If I qualify for a booster, when should it be given, and which type?

The current recommendation is for the booster to be given no sooner than 6 months after completing the first vaccine series, which for the currently approved Pfizer means 6 months after the second dose. Mixing vaccine type is not recommended, so these new recommendations are valid only for those who received the Pfizer vaccine already, although it is likely that boosters of the other vaccines will be approved also. (Remember that the prior recommendations for boosting severely immune-compromised people apply to Pfizer and Moderna.)

Where can we go for more information?

The CDC and FDA both have websites that go into more detail about boosters and about the vaccines in general. Remember that vaccination continues to be the primary means by which you can protect yourself and those you love.

For the FDA website, go to FDA.gov.

For the CDC website, go to CDC.gov.

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