Dr. Soumi Eachempati
Covid-19 Boosters are here to stay: do you know when you will get yours?
After the flood of booster discussion and data drops in the last two weeks, the dust has finally settled, and official recommendations have been made by the FDA and the CDC regarding Covid-19 boosters. Unfortunately, some ambiguity remains still as these authorities gave specific recommendations for some groups but not all. Moreover, discrepancies in the recommendations occurred so some individuals were confused as to which ones they should be following. For the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, the recommendations were given. The weight of the recommendation was indicated by whether an individual in each subgroup were told they “should” receive a booster or “may” receive a booster. The final recommendation states that boosters or the “third-shot” vaccination shots should be given to those over 65 years of age whose second shot was at least 6 months earlier. Boosters should also be given to those 18-64 with serious health conditions. Finally, boosters may be given to those 18-64 at high risk for disease or Covid-19 exposure such as health care workers, teachers, and prisoners. Immediately, everyone noted a few things. The last recommendation for healthy individuals 18-64 who were at risk for exposure was a weak recommendation as it contained the terminology of “may” not “should.” Others observed that booster recommendations were not offered for those under 18 years of age. The ambiguity led to some controversy as those who felt they needed a booster were not given a strong recommendation by the CDC even though the Biden Administration and other public health officials had indicated they were candidates for boosters. The exclusions effectively pushed individuals to make their own decision on when to receive the booster. In related statements, authorities stated that no one who wants a booster would be questioned as to why they were receiving one. To muddy the waters further, international groups like the WHO denounced the CDC and FDA recommendations because the WHO felt that no boosters should be given to developed countries until all countries have been appropriately vaccinated. Also lurking was what to do with the other vaccines besides Pfizer. The other vaccine companies in the US like Moderna and J&J were not eligible for these recommendations as their booster shots were still being evaluated by the FDA. Data submitted to the FDA documented that Moderna and J&J boosters were somewhat safe and effective and their approvals are likely. Interestingly, even though these booster are not approved, anyone wanting a booster from these manufacturers can theoretically go into a pharmacy and ask for it without likelihood of refusal. The final conclusion is that boosters are now here and available to American consumers. They are not included in the previously discussed Biden mandates being necessary to work as only 55% of the country has been vaccinated. However, prudent organizations will start to monitor the proportion of individuals who are receiving boosters as these data may prove to be important over the next few months as the value of the boosters is further delineated.