The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backed Pfizer booster shots for millions of older and vulnerable Americans on Friday, paving the way for swaths of the population to receive additional protection from COVID-19.
The CDC is now recommending that people ages 65 and older, residents of long-term care facilities, and people ages 50 to 64 years with underlying medical conditions receive a Pfizer booster shot six months after being fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech series. The agency also endorsed the Pfizer booster shot for people ages 18 to 49 who have underlying health conditions and want a booster shot.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky split from a CDC advisory group on Friday by also endorsing boosters for people ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 from where they work and want the extra shot. The CDC advisory panel voted against offering booster shots to workers with occupational hazards after lengthy deliberations on Thursday.
The director’s decision on Friday aligned with the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization from earlier this week, which recommended booster shots be offered to people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.
In a statement, Dr. Walensky said the CDC is tasked with the job of analyzing “complex, often imperfect data” to make public health decisions that will “do the greatest good.”
“I believe we can best serve the nation’s public health needs by providing booster doses for the elderly, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions and for adults at high risk of disease from occupational and institutional exposures to COVID-19,” Dr. Walensky said in the statement. “This aligns with the FDA’s booster authorization and makes these groups eligible for a booster shot.”
She added that the agency will address the recommendations for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots as soon as data becomes available.
On Friday, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup completed its review of the CDC’s recommendation and aligned with the agency’s recommendation for eligible groups. With this approval, primary care providers and pharmacies in California can now begin doling out booster shots to eligible residents.
“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “With today’s Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommendation, California is ready to go on day one to begin administering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to eligible Californians, in addition to our continued work in reaching those who remain unvaccinated to protect communities. Vaccines save lives, and boosters are a critical next step towards better protecting Californians from COVID-19.”
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the Santa Barbara County public health director, told the News-Press on Friday that she is encouraging eligible patients to reach out to their primary care physician to schedule their booster shot appointment.
She stressed that the Public Health Department is urging those eligible for the booster shot who have insurance to contact their primary care provider to set up appointments to receive the shot. Primary care providers can help connect patients to participating pharmacies where they can receive the booster dose.
Patients can also visit myturn.ca.gov over the next few days to schedule an appointment, as the site is expected to launch a booster eligibility screener within the next few days.
For those who are homebound, living in long-term care facilities or otherwise have limited vaccine access, Dr. Do-Reynoso said the Public Health Department is planning to deliver shots through booster clinics in both north and south county during the first week of October.
For additional resources and information on the county’s vaccination program or to find a vaccine locally, visit publichealthsbc.org/vaccine.