September 24 (Reuters) – The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday supported a booster of the Pfizer (PFE.N) / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and over, adults with underlying health problems and adults in high risk work and institutional settings.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s move is in line with U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for the hit earlier this week and follows the August announcement of a large recall deployment by her and other senior U.S. health officials.
The CDC’s recommendation paved the way for booster shots to begin on Friday. Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) said on Friday that the boosters were available immediately to eligible people. They will also be deployed in nursing homes and vaccination centers.
Walensky’s move broke with a recommendation Thursday from a group of expert external advisers at the agency who said a smaller group of people should receive the extra blow. The director of the CDC is not bound to follow the opinion of the jury.
âIt was a tight science call. In this situation, it was my call to make,â she told reporters during a White House briefing.
The advisory group specifically excluded people in high-risk jobs and those living in close-knit living conditions, in part because of concerns about a rare side effect of heart inflammation that has occurred primarily in older men. youth. They were also concerned that the recommendation was too broad to be implemented effectively.
Walensky said the policy protects healthcare and frontline workers as well as religious and ethnic minority communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
âMany of our frontline workers, essential workers and community workers come from communities that have already been hit the hardest,â she said. “It was a decision to provide rather than deny access.”
The panel recommended boosters for the elderly and some people with health conditions that put them at a higher risk of severe COVID-19.
The clearance opens boosters to more than 20 million people who received their second Pfizer / BioNTech injection more than six months ago.
The CDC told its advisers on Thursday that there would be no requirement to submit documents to prove that people have the underlying conditions or work in risky environments.
Scientists have been divided over the need for COVID-19 vaccine recalls, with some including those from the FDA and the World Health Organization, saying there is not enough evidence they are needed to anyone other than the elderly and that priority should be given to people around the world who have not yet received a first blow.
Pfizer and U.S. health officials have argued that boosters prevent hospitalizations and deaths, and emerging data indicates they can slow mild infections as well.
The highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus led to an increase in COVID-19 cases in the United States which peaked on September 1 and has since fallen by about 25% to just over 120,000 cases per day, based on of a 7-day moving average.
US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said the country needed to descend to around 10,000 cases per day to end the health crisis in the United States.
‘EVERYONE CAN SHOW HIMSELF’
SVB Leerink analyst Geoffrey Porges said he expects many “very concerned” to seek booster shots in the coming weeks due to the CDC’s loose demands on eligible people.
âIt literally means anyone can come forward and say I’m more at risk of being re-infected,â Porges said.
The United States had authorized additional injections for people with weakened immune systems last month and about 2.3 million people have already received a third injection, according to the CDC.
Since the FDA has yet to review Moderna’s (MRNA.O) recall request and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) has yet to request it, Pfizer should benefit, he said. -he declares.
Pfizer shares fell less than 1% on Friday, while Moderna shares fell 5%.
Bernd Salzberger, head of the infectious disease department at Regensburg University Hospital in Germany, said that given the uncertainty over the durability of the protection, experts could easily draw different conclusions on who should be eligible for reminders and when.
The CDC has said people 65 and older should be boosted and also recommended the injections for all adults over 50 with underlying conditions, such as cancer or diabetes.
He said, based on individual benefits and risks, that people 18 to 49 with underlying health conditions may be boosted, as well as those 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for it. exposure and transmission due to their professional or institutional environment.
The CDC said about 26 million people would now be eligible for a Pfizer / BioNTech recall, including 13 million who are 65 years of age or older.
William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said injections would be widely available under this policy.
âI’m skeptical that the locations will be overwhelmed, but there may be locations, especially in high-income neighborhoods, where they might be of interest to a lot of people,â Schaffner said.
Additional reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru and Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Mark Porter and Bill Berkrot
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