Fri | Oct 22, 2021

Biden urges COVID-19 booster shots for those now eligible

Published:Friday | September 24, 2021 | 2:45 PM
President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 response and vaccinations in the State Dining Room of the White House, Friday, September 24, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for boosters of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the extra doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.

Now public health officials must clear up confusion over exactly who should get a booster, and why — as they juggle vaccinating the unvaccinated who still make up the vast majority of the nation's coronavirus cases.

People 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 and up who have chronic health problems such as diabetes should be offered a booster once they're six months past their last Pfizer dose, CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky ruled late Thursday.

And a broad swath of other adults can decide for themselves if they want a booster once they reach that six-month mark: Younger people with underlying health problems — plus people at increased risk of infection because of their jobs, such as health workers, or their living conditions, such as jails or homeless shelters.

Walensky overruled objections from her own advisory panel in adding that last category, but the decision drew praise from health organisations that need their employees to avoid even a mild infection so they can come to work.

“At a time when hospitals across the country are experiencing ongoing surges in COVID-19 hospitalisations and severe workforce shortages, all available tools — including booster shots — should be considered to keep frontline health care workers safe and safeguard access to care,” said American Hospital Association CEO Rick Pollack.

The booster decision comes even as CDC data shows the vaccines used in the US still strongly protect against severe illness, hospitalisations and death from COVID-19, although immunity against milder infection appears to be waning somewhat months after getting the shots.

“You're in good shape and we're doing everything we can to keep it that way, which is where the booster comes in,” Biden said Friday as he praised the decision.

He aimed to set aside any unease about another vaccination by saying he would get his own booster soon.

“It's hard to acknowledge I'm over 65, but I'll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said.

“It's a bear, isn't it?”

The approval prompted many Americans to immediately seek their own boosters.

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