CDC advisory panel unanimously approves expanded COVID vaccine boosters

Image of vaccine vials and syringes.

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On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control’s expert advisory committee on vaccines met to vote on new guidelines for the use of boosters to sustain the immunity provided by the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the US. The day prior, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) that greatly expanded the number of vaccinated individuals who could receive a booster shot. That set the stage for the CDC to determine whether what the FDA allowed should be adopted as formal health policy.

A key step in CDC’s policymaking process here is approval by its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). While the CDC director isn’t bound to follow ACIP’s advice (and notably didn’t in an earlier booster decision), overruling ACIP is unusual. Given that ACIP has now voted unanimously to expand booster use to Moderna and J&J vaccines, the CDC director will likely follow its guidance.

FDA sets the stage

On Wednesday, the FDA announced that it was expanding its EUA for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. Earlier this month, the FDA approved Pfizer/BioNTech boosters for people who are six months out from receiving their initial doses and are at risk of exposure (like health care workers) or severe COVID cases (the elderly and those with health conditions). The CDC approved this guidance, despite a split vote against it from its advisory committee.

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