The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for certain individuals. The booster jab is recommended for three groups: those aged 65 and over, individuals between the ages of 12 and 64 who are at high risk from COVID infection, and the third group will be those who are at risk of increased exposure to the coronavirus through work. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is set to meet on Thursday to vote on how to administer and roll out the booster. Assuming the vote passes, the CDC will issue guidance on how to proceed.
This announcement comes hot on the heels of a rejection by the FDA of a White House proposal to administer the third shot to almost all Americans.
According to a statement from the FDA, the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) was amended to cover “individuals 65 years of age and older; individuals 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19; and individuals 18 through 64 years of age whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19.” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said this latter group covers “health care workers, teachers, and day care staff, grocery workers, and those in homeless shelters or prisons.”
After President Biden’s vaccine mandates for all companies that employ over 100 people, all federal workers, and soon-to-be-visitors to the United States, this announcement from the FDA may throw an unexpected wrench in the gears. Now that a third shot is recommended, many are asking how long it will be before it becomes mandated in the same manner. As the third group includes a significant number of workers, questions abound as to whether the administration will step the mandates up a notch.
Mix and Match Vaccines
There also remains the issue of mixing and matching vaccines. This recent update from the FDA only covers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, yet there are many Americans who have had either the Johnson & Johnson or the Moderna shot. As the Pfizer vaccine is the only one as yet approved, it is not yet clear whether the existing mandates will be satisfied by the other two options; how will this apply to those who have not opted for the Pfizer jab?
Many are wondering whether Israel’s rollout of vaccines is acting as a blueprint for the U.S. approach. Having already approved third-shot boosters, Israel’s Green Pass – which acts as a passport to access services and businesses – is now set to expire after six months. The Israeli Ministry of Health announced Wednesday, September 22, that the expiry date for each stamp would automatically come six months after the last shot. This means that to access hotels, museums, libraries, and other venues, citizens will be required to update their vaccine status twice a year or until the government rescinds the scheme.
While the approval of a booster shot may bring comfort to some, the legal challenges and imposition on workplaces could spark a backlash against a president already embroiled in a series of crises. One wonders how those who initially supported the vaccine mandates will feel about extra shots potentially becoming the cost of doing business and whether their support for President Biden will hold firm.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.