The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended Americans receive updated coronavirus vaccine booster shots designed to combat omicron variants. "This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion," Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. "If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it." Walensky announced her decision after an advisory panel reviewed data for more than six hours earlier in the day, then voted 13-1 to approve distribution of the boosters, USA Today reports.
The FDA had approved the boosters Wednesday. The CDC advisers, and Walensky, settled on recommending the new Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for anyone 12 and older and the tweaked Moderna version for anyone 18 and older, per NPR. During the advisory panel's discussion, members expressed concern about the lack of real-world data on the new versions, per Axios; a full clinical trial has not been completed. But they opted not to wait until late fall to give approval. "It would be better to have more information," said the chairwoman, Dr. Grace Lee. "But we again have this situation in front of us where we anticipate there will be a tough winter season ahead both with flu and with COVID-19."
The new shots are authorized to be given at least two months after the patient's previous dose of vaccine. Some advisers suggest waiting at least three months after the last shot or a COVID-19 infection, however. The booster can be given at the same time as a flu shot. The federal government has bought 171 million of what are called bivalent doses, which could be available in a few days. The CDC recommended that people who are immunocompromised be given Evusheld, a monoclonal antibody that afford COVID protection for six months. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)