The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday, Sept. 24, said that it supports COVID-19 booster shots for people with high-risk jobs in addition to elders and adults with underlying conditions.

“This updated interim guidance from CDC allows for millions of Americans who are at highest risk for COVID-19 to receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot to help increase their protection,” the health agency said in a statement.

Its advisory panel a day prior dismissed the need for people working in high-risk settings and frontline workers to opt for the third vaccine dose. But the panel also said it might change its recommendation if there was more evidence.

People classified as high-risk of COVID-19 include healthcare workers, teachers, and those living in homeless shelters and prisons.

Regarding the unusual move, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said her agency reached its final decision after working with inconsistent data. 

“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” she said. “… In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”

Despite the minor disparity, the CDC’s new guideline matches with that provided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), she added.

The FDA on Thursday authorized the booster shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech not only for the 64 and older and the medically at-risk people as young as 18 but also for those in “frequent institutional or occupational exposure.”

The latest approval enables having the shots available for recipients as soon as this week. 

The White House previously planned to roll out the shots for all eligible Americans this Monday. But it was halted after the FDA last Friday, Sept. 17, declined the widespread program, voicing concerns of severe side effects in young recipients and inadequate data.

The CDC recommends booster shots to people receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least six months prior. The agency added that this demographic currently numbers around 26 million people, with 13 million of them being 65 or older.

According to Reuters, the U.S. has had roughly 64% eligible population, or more than 180 million people, fully inoculated with the two vaccine shots.

The CDC said that after the third vaccine dose was authorized last month for people with compromised immune systems, up to 2.3 million Americans had taken their third jab, the CDC said. 

The FDA had not authorized booster shots made from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The CDC said it was awaiting data to be available.

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