Pfizer booster vaccines have been authorised for use in over 65s and high-risk individuals in the United States.
This means that millions of Americans are eligible for a third Covid-19 vaccine dose, which can be administered six months after the second dose.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acting head Janet Woodcock stated, “Today’s action demonstrates that science and the currently available data continue to guide the FDA’s decision-making for Covid-19 vaccines during this pandemic,”.
The decision was made after an independent expert panel convened by the FDA last week voted in favour of the move.
However, the panel rejected an initial plan from the White House to fully approve Pfizer boosters to everyone aged 16 and over.
The group, consisting of vaccinologists, infectious disease specialists and epidemiologists stated that the benefit/risk balance differed for younger people, especially young men who are more susceptible to myocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation of the heart.
Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines are currently being debated by a separate body of experts at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The debate is in regards to the specifics of the boosters, for example, if an obese individual is considered high-risk, over 42% of the US population over the age of 20 are eligible for the booster vaccine.
The CDC will also have to define what workplaces and other settings might lead to “frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2”.
The FDA indicated that this would cover “health care workers, teachers and daycare staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others”.
The FDA’s emergency use authorisation applies to individuals aged 18 and over who are at high risk of severe disease and high-exposure categories, as well as it only applying to Pfizer vaccines.
Those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine will now await news of when they might be offered a third vaccine dose.
IMAGE – “Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine by Marco Verch is licensed under CC BY 2.0