Nov 13, 2021 -- Top health officials in the Biden administration are pushing for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all adults as cases surge in Europe and numbers begin to increase in the U.S. again, according to The Washington Post.

At the same time, not all health officials support the idea. Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, has expressed caution about making the additional shots widely available, the newspaper reported.

Earlier this week, Pfizer submitted a request to the FDA to authorize extra shots ages 18 and older who completed their two-dose vaccine series at least six months ago. If the FDA grants the request, the CDC’s vaccine advisory committee would need to approve the request, and then Walensky would sign off on the final decision, the newspaper reported.

During a meeting of high-ranking officials earlier this week, Walensky said that she and other top advisers want to analyze the drug company data.

“She wants to see the data so she can formulate her decision,” an official told the newspaper. “Someone took that as her reservation. That’s not her reservation. She was pointing out that they might not go along. She knows no matter what, the decision is hers.”

Some CDC officials have noted that young, healthy people may not need additional protection yet, the newspaper reported. They’ve also said that focusing on booster shots may distract from the effort to get unvaccinated people to start their vaccine series.

“CDC officials will await FDA regulatory action before announcing next steps,” Kristen Nordlund, a CDC spokeswoman, told reporters this week.

Even so, many senior health officials have voiced their support. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Vivek Murthy, MD, the U.S. surgeon general; and David Kessler, MD, chief science officer for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, have previously talked about their strong support of booster shots for all adults.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Fauci said he backs broader access to boosters “given that we are starting to see plateauing, and even in certain states, an actual increase in cases.”

“I have always been and still am in favor of boosters,” he added. “Exactly who gets the boosters is up to the FDA and up to the CDC.”

Current CDC recommendations say that people are eligible for an additional shot if they are at least 65 years old or face high risks due to medical conditions, exposure at work, or certain living environments.

The FDA is reviewing the data and plans to conduct a risk-benefit analysis before making a final decision. The agency will likely grant authorization, the newspaper reported, which could come by the end of the month. The FDA and CDC may then discuss details, such as the age range or certain conditions for those who are eligible for boosters.

In the meantime, some states aren’t waiting for federal approval. On Wednesday, public health officials in California encouraged all adults who are six months past their last vaccination to get a booster, according to NPR.

“Do not turn a patient away who is requesting a booster,” Tomas Aragon, director of the California Department of Public Health, wrote in a letter to health care providers on Thursday.

“Allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” he wrote.\

Colorado also expanded eligibility this week to all adults in the state. Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order on Thursday, citing the need to reduce transmission, preserve hospital capacity, and reduce stress on health care workers.

“We want to ensure that Coloradans have every tool they need to protect themselves from this deadly virus and to help reduce the stress on our hospitals and health care workers,” Polis said in a statement.

A growing number of countries have authorized booster shots for all adults, including Canada, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates, according to The Washington Post. Israel has authorized extra shots for ages 12 and older, and China is encouraging citizens to get a booster shot before the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

As the winter holidays approach in the U.S. and daily cases surpass 75,000 again, health officials are making the case for broad booster access. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, noted this week that giving adults an extra shot could reduce cases and hospitalizations during the colder months.

“We can potentially at our peak avoid several hundred hospitalizations,” she told the newspaper. “And that…could mean the difference for us here in Colorado between exceeding and not exceeding our hospital bed capacity.”

Show Sources

The Washington Post: “Top Biden health officials push to make coronavirus booster shots available to all adults.” “Countries around the world are debating coronavirus booster shots. Here’s where they’ve been approved.”

CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots, updated Nov. 9, 2021.”

NPR: “All adults can get a COVID vaccine booster in California, not just those CDC listed.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info