Where things stand on boosters: 5 things to know

Many Americans have felt confused by the seemingly conflicting COVID-19 booster announcements made by the CDC, FDA and White House in recent weeks. Many are seeking answers to key questions about the country's booster plan, including who exactly is eligible and how Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients fit into the agenda.

On Sept. 22, the FDA granted emergency use authorization for a booster dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for Americans who are ages 65 and older, have a job that increases their risk of infection or are at high risk of severe COVID-19.

On Sept. 23, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices endorsed booster shots of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for tens of millions of Americans. However, the CDC's vaccine panel voted, 9-6, not to endorse boosters for people with jobs that increase their risk of infection, going against the FDA's authorization.

In a rare move on Sept. 24, Dr. Walensky overruled the CDC's advisory panel, saying people whose jobs put them at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection should be eligible for Pfizer boosters.

Below are five things to know about where the country's COVID-19 booster plan stands:

  1. As of Sept. 24, the CDC recommends the following groups should receive a COVID-19 booster shot: people ages 65 and older, residents in long-term care settings and people between ages 50 and 64 with underlying medical conditions.

    The agency also recommends the following groups may receive a booster: people between ages 18 and 49 with underlying medical conditions and people between ages 18 and 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting (such as healthcare facilities, schools, day care centers, grocery stores, homeless shelters and prisons). 

  2. People will self-identify as qualifying for a booster under the new guidelines, CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told The Wall Street Journal.

  3. The country's current booster plan accounts only for Americans who received two doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, as Pfizer's was the only vaccine to be granted FDA emergency use authorization for a booster dose. Pfizer vaccine recipients who are eligible for a booster dose can receive their third shot when at least six months has passed since their second shot.

  4. Americans who received the COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna or Johnson & Johnson are still waiting to hear when they will be eligible for a booster dose. The CDC said it "will also evaluate with similar urgency available data in the coming weeks to swiftly make additional recommendations for other populations or people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines."

  5. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, PhD, said Sept. 26 the drugmaker is prepared to manufacture enough vaccines for initial vaccinations for people across the globe as well as booster doses for wealthy nations that are further along in their vaccination campaigns, according to Politico. The U.S. also said it is prepared to administer booster doses alongside COVID-19 vaccines for children, should the FDA authorize them in the coming weeks.

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