An influential U.S. advisory panel said Friday it would recommend expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all adults age 18 and over.
The decision by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) public health experts could make the shots available around the country as soon as this weekend.
The panel voted 11-0 in favor of recommending that all adults in all age groups be made eligible for getting a booster shot, and also voted 11-0 in favor of recommending that every adult age 50 and over should receive a booster.
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Earlier Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved requests by COVID-19 vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer to expand the administration of their booster shots to all U.S. adults.
The final step, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) official recommendation, could come soon after the panel meeting.
Boosters are currently recommended for people who initially received their second Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna shots at least six months ago if they’re 65 or older or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Boosters are also recommended for people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
More than 32 million people have already received a dose of vaccine beyond their original vaccination.
While all three vaccines used in the U.S. continue to offer strong protection against severe COVID-19 illness and death, the shots’ effectiveness against milder infection can wane over time.
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As cases have surged in hot spots around the country over the last couple of weeks, some local and state leaders have allowed all adults to get boosters of Pfizer’s vaccine, though it is not yet official U.S. policy.
The U.S. is now averaging nearly 87,000 new coronavirus cases per day, up from 72,000 two weeks ago. The country is still averaging more than 1,100 deaths a day.
Massachusetts and Utah became the latest states to say that anyone 18 or older can roll up a sleeve for a booster shot,
In the last week. California, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Colorado also expanded the shots to all adults.
While the ACIP has previously debated whether there is sufficient evidence that boosters are currently needed for all adults, a Pfizer study found that a booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to about 95%.
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More than 195 million Americans are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data. Sixty-million people have yet to receive a first dose.
The Associated Press contributed to this report