CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine booster shot against the advice of her expert team. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 9 to 6 against booster shots, but Walensky overrode their voices and approved the same. She approved the shots for health workers, teachers, daycare attendants, grocery workers, and people who work in prisons and in shelters for the homeless.
The CDC director overruled her committee of independent advisers because she strongly believed that healthcare workers and others within the approved category face higher risks of occupational and institutional exposure to COVID-19. She made it clear that even in the face of uncertainty, it is always better to act than to fold one’s arms when people are dying from a pandemic.
“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Rochelle Walensky said. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
Just last week, the FDA approved an amended Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer vaccine booster shot for people from 18 to 64 years, given their exposures to the pandemic. According to the health agency, residents in long-term care settings and people above the age of 65 should get the Pfizer booster shot at least six months after their initial double vaccinations.
The same FDA approval was given to people aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions, as well as people aged 18-49 years with underlying medical condition based on individual risks and benefits. People aged 18-64 and whose work at institutional settings makes them prone to occupational hazards of COVID-18 exposure are also advised to get the Pfizer booster shots within six months of full vaccinations based on personal risks and benefits.
Walensky said her recommendation of the booster shots for people within the approved bracket conforms to the FDA’s authorization for the same set of people. Health analysts said the CDC director’s directive also aligns with President Joe Biden’s administration’s resolve to get all vaccinated adults to get booster doses of approved vaccines.
An infectious disease expert on the committee, Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, said although the 9-6 vote was very close, she was still surprised that Walensky could overturn the decisions of the advisory panel. According to her, “I am surprised that Dr. Walensky overturned one of the four ACIP votes today, and I believe others will be as well.”