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CDC chief overrules panel, OKs boosters for health care workers


How much will the U.S. benefit from boosters?

Some felt squeamish about broadly recommending boosters at all.

“We have too much hope on the line with these boosters,” said James Loehr, MD, who is a family physician in Ithaca, N.Y. Dr. Loehr said he felt the goal of giving boosters in the United States should be to decrease hospitalizations, and he felt they would, but that the impact would likely be smaller than appreciated.

Based on his calculations of the benefits of boosters for each age group, Dr. Loehr said if boosters were given to all 13 million seniors previously vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, we might prevent 200 hospitalizations a day, “which would be a lot,” he noted. But, he said, “considering that we have 10,000 hospitalizations a day now, it’s probably not that much.”

Others agreed.

“I really think this is a solution looking for a problem,” said Jason Goldman, MD, an associate professor at Florida Atlantic University who was representing the American College of Physicians. “You know, I don’t think it’s going to address the issue of the pandemic. I really think it’s just going to create more confusion on the provider from the position of implementation, and I really think it’s going really far afield of the data.”

ACIP Chair Grace Lee, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Stanford, said she had cared for children who had died of COVID.

“I can tell you that their family members really wished they had extra protection for their kids, because they weren’t symptomatic. Nobody else was sick at home,” she said.

Dr. Lee said for her, access was paramount, and she was in favor of expanding access to boosters for as many people as possible.

Next steps

People who were initially vaccinated with either Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are excluded from booster recommendations, something many on the committee were uncomfortable with.

The FDA is still considering Moderna’s application to market booster doses. Johnson & Johnson hasn’t yet applied to the FDA for permission to offer second doses in the United States.

While the ACIP’s recommendations are important, in this case, they may not have a huge practical effect, said Schaffner. The CDC has already approved third shots for people who are immunocompromised, and no proof of a medical condition is required to get one.

More than 2 million people have already gotten a third dose, he noted, and not all of them are immunocompromised.

“They have heard the president say that, you know, everybody should get a booster, and they’ve taken that at face value,” he said.

A version of this article first appeared on


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