Asa Daniels, senior staff writer
Since the introduction of vaccines for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, there has been discussion about when and if to introduce booster shots. On Sept. 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director, Rochelle Walensky, endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice’s (ACIP) approval of a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot.
The recommendations were guided by risk of COVID-19 complications and COVID-19 exposure, as well as waning immunity that data has shown is occurring overtime after the initial shots, and the danger of COVID-19 variants, including the delta variant. The booster shot is aimed at decreasing these risks.
The ACIP only approved a booster shot for those who received both doses of the Pfizer shot at least six months ago, according to the CDC website. People 65 years and older, including people in long-term care settings, as well as 50 to 64 year-olds with underlying medical conditions are highly recommended to get a booster shot.
18 and 49 year-olds with underlying medical conditions are also able to get a booster shot. Additionally, 18 to 64 year-olds at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their jobs or institutional settings can also receive their booster shot. This part of Walensky’s statement roused some disagreement from ACIP members.
The committee had originally voted against recommending 18 to 64 year-olds getting the booster as stated. At the same time, others have said that the use of the word “may” emphasizes that it does not equate to a strong recommendation, such as the one for people 65 years and older.
The reason that younger adults are only given the suggestion for a booster shot is due to uncertainty of research regarding abnormal, adverse side-effects for younger people and that it could strain resources available for booster shots, according to a CBS article by Alexander Tin.
In Tin’s article, Erin Tromble, chief medical officer for the CDC’s vaccine task force, said that they wanted to provide people the chance to make their own decisions regarding getting a booster shot.
“We really want to provide the opportunity for people to make these decisions and assess their own circumstances, because blanket rigid recommendations also aren’t going to serve the needs of our patient populations,” Tromble said.
Another reason why some of the ACIP members voted against younger people getting vaccines is because they believed it will distract from present attempts to get the unvaccinated to receive their own shots. A poll that some members referred to said that a third of unvaccinated Americans would be “less likely” to get the vaccine if booster shots were recommended, according to Tin’s article.
For now, the booster shot is only recommended for Pfizer recipients. People who received the Johnson and Johnson, Moderna or other vaccines will have to wait until appropriate data becomes available, which the CDC says “are expected soon.”
At the time of publication, Berry College does not have any plans to host vaccine booster clinics for students, faculty, and staff. Debbie Heida, chief of staff, said that the continuing flow of information will inform the college’s decision on holding such an event.
“Guidance about the boosters is still evolving and availability is limited to those over 65, persons who are immunocompromised and those who work in high-risk setting,” Heida said. “The college encourages those who are eligible to get a booster when they are able. As has been our practice, we will sponsor vaccine clinics when eligibility includes Berry students, faculty and staff.”