Vaccine regulators in the United States have expanded the availability of COVID-19 shots to all adults, making the vaccine available to millions of more Americans during a time when infection rates have risen.
Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approved the expanded eligibility rule on Friday shortly after U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded permission for booster shots for adults who have previously received a shot to have their second shot — either Pfizer or Moderna Inc vaccine — at least six months later.
Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N) one-dose vaccine recipients were previously authorized to receive boosters two months after their initial dose.
The majority of adults were qualified to receive the additional vaccine, but CDC data indicates less than 18% had received one.
Nonetheless, health officials believe the previously established guidelines were too complicated.
“The current guidelines – though well-intentioned and thoughtful – generate an obstacle to uptake of boosters. In pursuit of precision, they create confusion,” said Nirav Shah, the president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.
“Our concern is that eligible individuals are not receiving boosters right now,” Shah added.
An agency spokesperson said, the CDC stopped short of recommending booster shots to all adults. The agency said individuals aged 18 to 49 are free to request or not the vaccine.
Further clarifications of CDC recommendations for people aged 50 to 64 were also made.
This suggested that boosters should be given to everyone in this age group, rather than just those who are at risk due to underlying health conditions.
It was discovered that a panel of CDC advisers unanimously endorsed the agency’s guidelines earlier in the day.
A Surge in Cases
Over the past two weeks, the United States has seen daily increases in the number of cases due to the easier-to-transmit Delta virus and a longer indoor stay due to cooler weather.
This comes just two months after the U.S. had seen a sharp decrease in the number of cases.
The guidelines didn’t go far enough to encourage booster doses, says Dr. Eric Topol, director of Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.
It’s likely that COVID-19 cases will be on the rise this winter, Topol added, and protection is diminishing.
“We’re sitting ducks,” he added.
According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, booster vaccines, coupled with increased vaccinations, should help the country move beyond the worst of the pandemic in the coming months.
The FDA stated that it based its decision on information demonstrating that a third dose led to an enhanced immune response against the virus in studies involving Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
Scientists are still having concerns about the occurrence of rare cases of heart inflammation in young men who have received vaccinations, especially for receivers of Moderna’s vaccine.
A study conducted in Israel suggests a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine can lead to lower rates of heart inflammation than a second dose.
As health experts argued there was not enough data to support the need for further vaccination in each group, the Biden administration proposed boosters for everyone in August but has made them available in stages.
In the United States, 32 million people have received a booster shot.
Approximately 60% of adult Americans – or about 195.7 million people – are considered fully immunized, meaning they have been immunized twice with the Pfizer/BioNTech Ir Moderna vaccines or once with the J&J vaccine.
Individuals with immune system problems, individuals over the age of 65, and people with health issues, such as obesity or regular exposure to the virus as a result of work or living conditions, are eligible for this procedure.