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NEWS

CDC Releases New COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Guidelines

Posted on September 24, 2021
Article written by
Eli Sachse, RN

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for adults over 65 and other high-risk individuals.
  • People who are immunocompromised may be eligible to receive a third dose of the vaccines now.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least six months after a second dose in the following groups:

  • People 65 and older
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • People ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that place them at high risk for severe COVID-19

The CDC recommendations state that people ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions and people ages 18 to 64 who are at risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their work or living arrangements “may receive a booster shot” of the Pfizer vaccine “based on their individual benefits and risks.”

The CDC’s Sept. 24 recommendations align with the Pfizer booster shot authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released on Sept. 22.

President Joe Biden confirmed in a speech on Sept. 24 that eligible individuals who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in March or earlier can receive a booster dose of the vaccine now, free of charge.

The CDC and FDA did not release recommendations about the Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Moderna announced that a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine improved protection against the delta variant in a press release on Sept. 1. Johnson & Johnson released a statement on Sept. 21 sharing that data from a phase 3 study demonstrated the benefits of a booster vaccine dose.

Both companies have submitted data on booster shots to the FDA for review.

Boosters vs. Additional Doses for Immunocompromised People

A COVID-19 vaccine booster is administered when someone developed adequate immunity after a second dose, but that immunity has decreased over time. However, an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine may be recommended for those who did not develop an adequate immune response after the two-dose vaccination series.

The FDA amended the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines’ emergency use authorizations on Aug. 12 to allow a third vaccine dose for certain immunocompromised individuals. The new recommendations from the FDA and CDC do not change this eligibility. There is not yet guidance from the FDA or CDC on additional doses for immunocompromised people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Should People With SMA Receive COVID-19 Boosters?

Not everyone living with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is moderately to severely immunocompromised. However, early research on mouse models suggests that some people with SMA may have weakened immune responses in general.

Your primary medical provider, who is familiar with your unique family and medical history, will be able to guide you to the choice that is right for you.

Continued Precautions for Vaccinated People

Even if you are vaccinated, there is still a possibility of contracting a COVID-19 infection. This is called a “breakthrough infection.” Although COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be highly effective, no medical intervention is 100 percent effective. Additionally, immunocompromised people are at increased risk for breakthrough infections, possibly due to a weakened immune response to the initial COVID-19 vaccines.

For these reasons, the CDC recommends continuing to take the following general precautions during this pandemic:

  • Wear masks while interacting with people outside of your household.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others.
  • Avoid those who are ill.
  • Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Eli Sachse, RN is a registered nurse living in California. He has written about health topics for Sonoma Medicine and Microcosm Publishing. Learn more about him here.

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