Arkansas health officials announced Monday that they will expand eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for all adults. This comes as a growing number of state and local officials are looking for ways to speed up third doses to prevent a new wave of the virus.
“For Moderna and Pfizer, 18-year-olds and older, go get your shot. There are no restrictions. You should be six months old by the time you get the booster. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said Monday that the booster is needed.
This is a significant addition to the current recommendations made by federal health officials. While boosters are recommended for all adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allows boosters for more limited groups of Pfizer and Moderna recipients: seniors 65 and older, adults with underlying medical conditions, and those who live or work in “high-risk settings.”
The CDC reports that the national average speed of booster shots has slowed over the past few weeks and that 16.5% of fully vaccinated adults had received a booster so far. Among seniors, only two states — Vermont and Minnesota — have recorded a booster dose in more than half of their vaccinated adults 65 and older.
“It should make it much easier. Hutchinson stated that we want to make it as simple and accessible as possible for everyone to get their booster shots with minimal confusion and burden.
Arkansas officials said that they had notified the Biden administration of these plans. Federal authorities have been considering expanding eligibility for booster shots nationwide. Officials cautioned, however, that a formal authorization could still be weeks away as regulators weigh rare side effects.
“You’re balancing these two things and making certain that everybody has the positive benefit of getting a boost shot,” Janet Woodcock, acting FDA Commissioner, stated last week in an interview to WebMD.
Arkansas joins two states, however, that declared all their adult residents eligible for booster shot last week ahead of the federal signing-off.
New Mexico and Colorado said that their entire states are high-risk enough to require third doses. This is in line with federal guidance, which allows adults who “work or live in high risk settings” to get booster shots six months after being vaccinated with Moderna or Pfizer.
The CDC initially stated that the Moderna boosters recommendation for Pfizer and Moderna was intended for occupations at “increased risks of being exposed to virus,” such as first responders and teachers, or congregate settings such prisons or homeless shelters. However, the agency has recently monitored surges of breakthrough infections.
CBS News received confirmation from a state official that Colorado had consulted with the CDC informally to approve its plan for expanding eligibility for all adults.
“I have been frustrated by the confusing messaging from the FDA and the CDC. Everyone should receive the booster within six months. The data is overwhelming that the booster increases your personal security level. That’s why it was given to me by my parents. It was mine. It was my family members,” Colorado Governor Jared Polis said to “Face the Nation”..
A spokesperson for the CDC did not respond to a request to comment on the move. She stated that providers “should administer vaccine according” to the current FDA emergency authorization and CDC provider agreement.
When asked about federal repercussions for administering booster shots to all adults, New Mexico authorities said that their move “trumps CDC guidance for providers”.
Matt Bieber, spokesperson of New Mexico’s Department of Health said that vaccines are “protected”.
Telling providers not to deny booster doses
Other jurisdictions have also tried to find other avenues to increase access to booster shots. New York City announced Monday that it would not allow booster shot providers to refuse any adult seeking them.
Although providers are allowed to prescribe medicines “off label” once they have been approved by FDA on the private marketplace, the CDC has warned vaccine providers that they may face penalties and lose pandemic liability protections. They also risk losing their pandemic liability protections.
The CDC has long urged states and territories to remove any obstacles to vaccinations, allowing adults “self-attest”, if they are eligible.
Monday’s announcement by the governors of New Jersey and West Virginia was a reminder to adult residents to get booster shot. However, no formal policy changes were made to allow for third doses.
Final analysis: New York City’s order may, like California’s last week’s guidance, amount to codifying an anti-vaccination policy that had been heavily reliant on the honor systems.
“The state’s guidance regarding boosters is in line with the CDC. It is simplified to allow more Californians to receive a booster. California has asked vaccine providers not to turn away anyone who has decided that they need a booster,” stated a spokesperson from California’s health department.
Should all adults have a booster shot?
The renewed push for booster shots is coming as some of the Biden administration’s top doctors have redoubled their calls for the third doses of booster shots, ahead of FDA or CDC decisions about whether to expand eligibility nationwide for all adults.
“Boosting will be an essential component of our response. It is not a bonus or a luxury, but an essential part of our program,” Dr. Anthony Fauci (the president’s chief medical advisor) told The New York Times last Wednesday.
Pfizer rejected the FDA’s initial request to license booster shot for all American adults in April. Since then, evidence has grown to suggest that vaccine protection is waning. However, the rates of cases and deaths among those who have not been vaccinated are still much higher.
A study of records from Veterans Health Administration that was published in Science earlier in the month found that the Delta variant’s effectiveness against symptomatic infections declined to 58% with Moderna and 43.3% with Pfizer, although they remained highly effective at preventing death.
A JAMA-published CDC analysis found that Moderna recipients had more COVID-19 hospitalizations than Pfizer recipients. According to the authors, Pfizer recipients were at greater risk of being hospitalized after four months, which could indicate a “waning of protection over the long-term,” including for severe COVID-19.
Officials in the United Kingdom said Monday that their booster program targeting adults 50+ saw an 87.4% increase in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease following a third dose. This was compared to adults receiving the booster. Canada’s health authorities approved booster doses of Moderna and Pfizer for all adults in this month.
“It is evident, however, that revaccination would be necessary, for both the same reasons that influenza revision is necessary: antigenic variation, and waning immunity,” Dr. Arnold Monto concluded in The New England Journal of Medicine, earlier this month. He has been a chairperson at recent meetings of FDA’s outside vaccine advisors.
Only Pfizer has so far submitted a renewed request for an emergency use authorization expansion.To receive a booster shot, they cited new data from their trials that suggested a booster “demonstrated an relative vaccine efficacy 95%” compared to those who didn’t get a third dose.
The FDA’s advisers had previously balked at Pfizer’s initial request to license booster shots for all adults because of concerns over the risks of myocarditis — a rare type of heart inflammation linked to the shots in mostly younger, male recipients.
Officials from the Biden administration have pointed to data from Israel to allay fears about myocarditis. The country was among the first to distribute Pfizer’s third-generation doses nationally.
“One concern was that if you gave everyone the age-related boosters, would you get a lot more myocarditis? This was a concern after the second dose.” Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccines official, told a recent webinar hosted by the Health Resources & Services Administration.
Marks stated that although it is present after the second dose of Israeli data, it doesn’t seem as severe after the third dose. Perhaps because the duration of treatment is longer, Marks said.
Source: CBS News