CDC Director Endorses Pfizer Boosters for Older People, at-Risk Groups

  • The CDC endorsed booster shots for Americans 65 and older and at-risk groups late Thursday.
  • CDC Director Rochelle Walensky partially broke with the advisory panel, endorsing shots for those at higher risk due to their job.
  • That could include healthcare workers, teachers, and grocery store employees, among others.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for select groups late Thursday evening. The move means the jabs can start being administered.

In line with the recommendations made by a CDC advisory panel earlier on Thursday, the CDC endorsed the shots for Americans 65 and older, residents of nursing homes, and adults aged 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions.

But Director Rochelle Walensky partially broke from the panel, endorsing the booster shots for people who are at an increased risk of getting COVID-19 while at work or because of where they live. That could include healthcare workers, teachers, grocery store employees, and people who live in prisons or homeless shelters.

Hours after the panel voted 9-6 not to recommend boosters for those groups, Walensky overruled them.

“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said in a statement late Thursday, according to The Associated Press. “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.”

Walensky noted her recommendation aligned with the Food and Drug Administration, which recommended on Wednesday that adults “in an occupational or institutional setting” that increases their risk of getting COVID-19 also be eligible for the shot.

The CDC advisory panel, made up of independent medical experts, broke with the FDA on that recommendation in a split decision on Thursday. The panel said it was concerned the move could send mixed messages about the vaccines, which are incredibly effective at preventing severe illness.

Walensky also said Thursday the primary goal remains to get unvaccinated Americans their first shot. According to the CDC, as of Thursday, 55% of the US population is fully vaccinated, while 64% had received at least one dose.

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