COVID-19 booster shots are likely to soon become available to any adult who wants one. 

An expert advisory panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted unanimously Friday to support expanding booster shot availability and recommended that everyone over 50 get a booster. After reviewing safety data, the committee considered the benefits of booster shots in combating the COVID-19 epidemic.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky They are expected to sign off quickly on the federal policy.

Earlier Friday, the Food and Drug Administration Friday remove limits on who could could get booster shots and decided that people over 50, many of whom have medical conditions putting them at extra risk for severe COVID-19, should get an additional shot.

Adults who received their first shots six months or more ago should immediately have access to the Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech shots.

People who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine were already encouraged to receive a booster shot at last two months after their initial dose to bring their protection up to the same level as those who received the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. 

You can mix and match different vaccine brands.

The J&J and Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots are identical to initial vaccines, while Moderna decided that a half-dose would be protective and lead to fewer side effects.

The effectiveness of initial vaccinations in protecting against severe illness and hospitalization is still excellent, especially for young healthy individuals. Their effectiveness against all infections begins to decline after six months. Boosting brings the level of protection back up above 90%, Pfizer-BioNTech data shows.

Widely distributed booster shots could also be helpful in reducing the spread of the virus. Officials stated that although vaccines can only reduce the spread of COVID-19, it may suffice to help you get through holiday season, and coldest parts of winter.

While boosters were available for some time to a restricted population, approximately 16% have received them.Some states allow boosters to be used for all adults.

Members of the committee expressed hope that by easing restrictions, confusion would be reduced about eligibility and more people will get additional shots.

“The current guidelines, though well intentioned and thoughtful…create confusion,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Shah, who is not a voting member but who participated in Friday’s committee meeting as president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials said state health officials are unanimously in favor of loosening restrictions on boosters. He stated, “We want clarity and to eliminate confusion.” “Eligible individuals are not receiving boosters at the moment because of this confusion.”

The safety of booster shots has been proven to be excellent, and there are no side effects other than those in the initial shot.

There have been fewer side effects in Israel than after the first dose. This is despite the fact that there are approximately 4 million Israelis who have had boosters. The same was true for myocarditis which is an uncommon side effect in which the heart muscle gets inflamed. 

The committee agreed that the data supported the recommendation to make boosters available for everyone.

“It is reasonable for us to facilitate an individual being able to make the choice of benefit versus risk,” said committee member Dr. Sarah Long, a pediatric infectious disease expert at Drexel University College of Medicine and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, both in Philadelphia.

The committee decided everyone over 50 “should” get a booster rather than simply permitting them in that age group. The committee recommended that everyone living in long-term care facilities, regardless of their age, get a booster.

The committee ruled that boosters are available for all adults who have had their last shots at least six months ago.

While all ages are susceptible to COVID-19 infection, data shows an increase in the likelihood of serious diseases as we age. Adults under the age of 30 should get booster shots in order to avoid one COVID-19-related infection. This is contrary to what happens to elderly adults who need them to receive between 85 and 135 doses.

The committee initially restricted boosters to those at high-risk for infection or for severe COVID-19, but decided to lift those restrictions because of confusion about the restrictions, as well as data from Israel showing that widespread booster shots were safe and helped bring down infection rates.

Infection rates in the U.S. had fallen substantially in September and October, but have been climbing again over the last three weeks. Infection rates are increasing in many parts of Europe as well.

Data shows that the majority of COVID-19-infected patients are still unvaccinated.

Already enough boosters have been purchased by the Biden administration to give free to anyone who qualifies. The doses are expected to be available in pharmacies or clinics throughout the nation immediately.

Contact Karen Weintraub at [email protected]

USA TODAY has coverage for patient safety and healthcare thanks in part to the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. Editorial input does not come from the Masimo Foundation.

Source: USAToday.com

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