U.S. health authorities’ move last week to authorize and recommend the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain populations who received a second dose six months ago has left about 20 million Americans eligible, according to Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator.
Booster shots are aimed to extend and enhance protection against severe COVID-19 disease and related complications among vulnerable populations, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said during a White House briefing Friday. But who can receive a booster dose at this time?
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“If you are six months out from your last dose of Pfizer vaccine, you are eligible for a booster if you fall into one of three high risk groups,” Murthy said, noting the following eligible groups:
- People ages 65 or older and residents in long term care facilities
- People ages 50-64 with medical conditions and at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness (such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease)
- People ages 18-49 with underlying conditions may receive a shot and should consider individual benefits and risks
- People ages 18-64 who live or work in a setting with increased risk of COVID-19 exposure (including healthcare workers, teachers, individuals in shelters or prisons and grocery store workers)
A small fraction of Americans with moderate-to-severe immunocompromise were previously made eligible for a third dose as well. Murthy advised visiting vaccines.gov for thousands of locations nationwide offering COVID-19 booster doses.
“CDC will continue to monitor the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure appropriate recommendations to keep all Americans safe,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a statement. “We will also evaluate with similar urgency available data in the coming weeks to swiftly make additional recommendations for other populations or people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.”
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“Your health matters just as much as other vaccine recipients and we want to make sure that your protection against COVID is strong and reliable as well,” Murthy added.
According to Zients, the U.S. has secured enough booster supply for every American, and doses are free with no I.D. or insurance required. Officials worked with governors, pharmacies, doctors, long term care facilities and other providers to make doses available to eligible Americans, he said, noting that 80,000 locations are offering a booster shot nationwide, including over 40,000 local pharmacies.
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More specifically, Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots are available at nearly 6,000 CVS Pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations, and patients will be prompted to self-attest to their eligibility by the defined guidelines; Walgreens, Walmart and Sam’s Club, Kroger and other pharmacies are offering doses as well.
Nevertheless, more than 70 million Americans remain unvaccinated, and federal health officials emphasized that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains a top priority in an effort to suppress the pandemic. As of Sept. 24, the U.S. recorded over 130,000 new daily cases, with a seven-day average of deaths exceeding 1,500 and weekly average for hospital admissions at 8,906.