Every adult in the U.S. is now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the eligibility expansion and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off, as well.
On Friday morning, the FDA authorized both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccine boosters for all adults age 18 years or older who were fully vaccinated at least six months ago. On Friday afternoon, members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted unanimously to recommend expanding access to the booster shots, and CDC director Rochelle Walensky quickly signed off and made the new guidance official.
The ACIP newly recommended that everyone 50 and older who was vaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA shots receive a booster shot at least six months after they finished their first round of shots, and said that everyone else 18 and older may receive a booster if they wanted, as well. Boosters were already recommended for anyone who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine at least two months ago.
The eligibility expansion comes after a number of states and localities had already independently made the shift. Over the past two weeks, more than a dozen states and New York City all announced that they were recommending booster shots for all adults who received a full COVID vaccination at least six months ago. Those expansions of eligibility went beyond the (nonbinding) recommendations of federal regulators at the time.
The Biden administration has been pushing to make boosters available to all American adults since August, despite reservations from some scientists that it wasn’t yet necessary. But the FDA and CDC initially signed off only on the extra shots for seniors; people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID (including anyone with a wide range of other health issues); recipients of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine; and anyone who self-identified as being at higher risk of exposure to COVID, like frontline workers. Although that effectively meant that most adults were likely eligible for a booster, many Americans didn’t understand that.
That confusion came up during the ACIP meeting on Friday, per Stat News’ Helen Branswell:
The CDC presented polling data that showed that significant portions of the population didn’t know if they were eligible for a booster or not. Some ACIP members noted that the long list of health conditions that made people under the age of 65 eligible for a booster was not something doctors would know off the top of their heads.
The new recommendation of boosters for all adults will undoubtedly simplify public-health guidance and reduce confusion regarding the matter.