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09/24/2021

CDC director overrules agency's advisors on COVID-19 boosters

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky overruled her agency advisory panel by recommending COVID-19 boosters for people at risk of the coronavirus because of their jobs.
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Early this morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky overruled her agency advisory panel by recommending COVID-19 boosters for people at risk of the coronavirus because of their jobs, according to a Washington Post report.

The additional category of people goes beyond those the advisory panel had recommended for boosters, which include nursing home residents, seniors and younger people with preexisting conditions.

The decision Friday paves the way to a booster for a potentially large share of the 26 million Americans six months past their last Pfizer shot. 

[Read more: FDA OKs Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine booster for older adults, people at high risk]

On Wednesday, the FDA approved a third shot of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine after six months for Americans age 65 years old and older, as well as those at risk of serious illness or who have high exposure to the virus at work.

On Thursday, the CDC advisory panel’s recommendations mostly reflected the FDA’s authorization. Yet in a contentious 9 to 6 vote, the panel declined to recommend boosters for people at risk of contracting the coronavirus from their job.

Early Friday morning, Walensky went against that vote. The agency recommends boosters for people at risk of exposure or transmission from their workplace or in an institutional setting.

[Read more: FDA advisory committee rejects Pfizer COVID booster outside of high- risk groups]

In a statement, Walensky said it was her job “to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact.”

“At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health,” Walensky said, emphasizing that CDC’s guidance aligns with FDA’s booster shot authorization. “In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good,” according to the report.

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