The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose COVID-19 vaccine for Americans 65 years old and above and adults at high risk of severe illness.
Wednesday’s decision also approved a booster shot for people in certain occupations, such as health care workers, teachers, grocery store employees and those in homeless shelters or prisons.
The authorization will likely pave the way for Thursday’s vote by an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on which group of Americans will be eligible to receive the Pfizer booster shots.
A CDC panel met Wednesday to discuss who should be first in line to receive booster shots — a controversial decision that comes over a month after President Joe Biden first announced plans to administer booster shots eight months after the second dose.
An FDA panel last week overwhelmingly voted to reject the White House plan to give boosters to most Americans, citing a lack of data on the safety of boosters, as well as a lack of evidence of their value.
The panel did endorse booster shots for those 65 and older and those at high risk of severe illness.
Scientists emphasized that the country’s main concern should still be vaccinating those who have not received any doses.
“I want to highlight that in September of 2021 in the United States, deaths from COVID-19 are largely vaccine preventable, with the primary series of any of the three vaccines available,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a CDC adviser who opened Wednesday’s discussion.
Just over 55% of Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. As the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread, the U.S. is recording its highest daily death tolls from the virus since March.