The Food and Drug Administration may authorize booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all adults in the U.S. this week, dramatically expanding access to additional jabs for tens of millions of Americans, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to convene its panel of independent experts on Friday to review Pfizer’s application for widespread booster authorization to those 18 and older. The company asked regulators for authorization earlier this month amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as the nation prepares for the busy winter holiday season.
If both the CDC and FDA give approval to the expanded booster program, all U.S. adults could get booster doses as early as this weekend, as long as their second jab was at least six months ago, the Times added. About 30.7 million people have gotten a booster dose, and 195.4 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The nation’s booster program for those inoculated with the Pfizer or Moderna jabs has so far been limited to individuals 65 and over, anyone living in long-term care settings, people with underlying health conditions or those who work or live in a high-risk setting six months or more after their second dose.
Anyone who had a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine is eligible for a booster at least two months after their shot. Health officials have also allowed people to adopt a mix-and-match approach to the booster shots, meaning recipients can choose to receive a booster from a different company than the one that provided their initial shot or shots.
Moderna is also set to ask regulators to expand booster eligibility, although the mix-and-match strategy allows anyone to get the Pfizer jab regardless of their initial vaccine course.
The booster restrictions haven’t stopped states from acting prior to federal guidance. Local officials have already encouraged all adults to get their boosters in places including California, which told vaccine providers not to turn away anyone who requests an additional jab. In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) told residents to “just get a booster,” saying the state needed “as many people boosted as possible” with the impending holidays.
President Joe Biden had hoped to unveil a massive booster program in September, but the proposal was scaled back amid concerns by federal experts and agency officials that there wasn’t sufficient data to do so at the time. They pointed to studies showing that all three vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. continue to be effective at preventing severe illness and death associated with the coronavirus.
Studies show that the effectiveness of the vaccines does begin to wane about six months after the second jab of both the Pfizer and Moderna shots.