5 takeaways from the CDC advisory panel's meeting on COVD-19 boosters

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The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — a group of physicians and experts in infectious diseases, immunology and public health — met Aug. 30 to discuss COVID-19 booster shots for the general population. 

The meeting was originally scheduled for Aug. 24, but was delayed as medical professionals debated whether the shots are necessary. Booster shots have so far only been authorized for immunocompromised people

Five takeaways from the meeting:

  1. The panel expressed support for giving booster shots to healthcare workers, nursing home residents and others who were vaccinated earliest in the nation's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, The Wall Street Journal reported. But, they said, the priority should remain on getting as many unvaccinated people vaccinated as possible.

  2. The priority for boosters should be preventing severe disease in people at highest risk of becoming sick with COVID-19, instead of preventing infections, some panel members said, according to the Journal.

    "It would be important for us to focus our efforts on preventing severe disease because variants are going to continue to emerge over time and will evade our ability to prevent all infections," Grace Lee, MD, the panel's chairwoman and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford University in California, said, the Journal reported. 

  1. The panel intends to vote on formally recommending boosters in the general population after they are cleared by the FDA. They are set to reconvene in mid-September to discuss additional data about the efficacy of booster shots, according to Politico.

  2. Some panel members said guidelines for boosters should include an expanded definition of who is at higher risk of COVID-19 infection that takes into consideration race and ethnicity and populations such as the incarcerated who have experienced worse outcomes, the Journal reported.

  3. Some panel members voiced frustration with the Biden administration's plan to begin giving COVID-19 boosters to the general population Sept. 20. The announcement went ahead of federal regulators and could worsen vaccine hesitancy, they argued, according to Politico.

    "That kind of opened the door to a lot of confusion," Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, a member of the American Medical Association's board of trustees, said during the panel's discussion, Politico reported.

    Helen Keipp Talbot, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said: "I think since it was given with a date, many assumed that it was given a blessing by the White House and this was the next step," but the plan is still contingent on the FDA's approval and CDC's recommendation, Politico reported.

    Dr. Talbot added that providers who are already giving booster shots to the general population are putting themselves at risk. Demetre Daskalakis, MD, director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention, told committee members that providers who don't follow FDA and CDC guidance on booster shots may expose themselves to liability when seeking reimbursement from the government, Politico reported.

    CDC data released Aug. 31 shows that 955,000 people in the U.S. have gotten booster shots, but it's unclear how many were authorized by the FDA and CDC.


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