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CDC head acknowledges confusion over who gets COVID-19 vaccine boosters

Rochelle Walensky tells CBS that science of inoculation against coronavirus is being evaluated ‘in real time’; third dose may be recommended for entire population

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, March 19, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP, File)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testifies during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in Washington, March 19, 2021. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP, File)

WASHINGTON — The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that she recognizes there is some confusion now in the United States about who should get a COVID-19 vaccine booster.

For starters, the just-approved booster is intended for people originally vaccinated with shots made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech.

Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky sided with most of the recommendations from CDC advisers on giving boosters six months after the last Pfizer dose for certain groups of people.

That includes people 65 and older, nursing home residents and people ages 50 to 64 with chronic health problems, such as diabetes. People ages 18 to 49 with health problems can decide for themselves if they want a booster.

But Walensky also overrode advisers’ objections and said people at increased risk of infection because of their jobs or their living conditions qualify for a booster now. That includes health care workers, teachers, and people in jails or homeless shelters.

“I recognize that confusion right now,” Walensky told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“We are evaluating this science in real time,” she said. “We are meeting every several weeks now to evaluate the science. The science may very well show that the rest of the population needs to be boosted and we will provide those guidances as soon as we have the science to inform them.”

People who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are waiting to hear when they might be eligible for a booster.

The US had already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.

Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries do not have enough for their initial doses.

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