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US Booster Eligibility Decision

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has overridden an agency panel and recommended that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, the New York Times reports.

Earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration authorized such a booster dose, but, as the New York Times noted then, it is up to the CDC to determine who qualifies for it. NPR reports that a CDC panel voted unanimously to allow older individuals and residents of long-term care facilities to receive a third shot as well as to allow younger individuals with underlying medical conditions to be able to receive another dose.

NPR notes, though, that the most contentious deliberations centered on whether people under 65 with jobs that placed them at increased risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 should also be eligible for the booster. There, it voted against allowing a third dose, it adds. This, CNN notes, breaks with the FDA emergency use authorization, reporting that the "broad nature of the EUA did not sit well with several members."

However, the Times reports that even though the CDC usually follows the recommendations of the panel, Walensky instead aligned with the FDA authorization and determined that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to exposure at their jobs, like healthcare workers, are also eligible. The Times notes that this surprised some FDA insiders, but that some outside the agency say Walensky might not have had much of a choice, as she had been involved in the Biden Administration announcement saying booster shots would be soon be available to adults in the US.