WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden urged eligible adults to get a Covid-19 booster shot, and said he would soon do the same, following the endorsement of that move Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said early Friday that the agency was advising a third shot of Pfizer's vaccine for the elderly and certain at-risk groups, including essential workers such as teachers and grocery store employees, going further than the recommendations by a panel of CDC advisers.
"If you got the Pfizer vaccine in January, February, March of this year and you're over 65 years of age, go get the booster," Biden said Friday. "Or if you have a medical condition like diabetes, or you're a front-line worker, like a health care worker or a teacher, you can get a free booster now. I'll be getting my booster shot, it's hard to acknowledge I'm over 65, but I'll be getting my booster shot."
The decision capped a highly unusual process in which top administration health officials in August announced a plan to start giving boosters this week before the career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC had reviewed the data. But the officials said data from Israel and the United Kingdom showed troubling signs of protection waning, particularly in the elderly, and there was a need to act quickly.
More than 2 million people have already received a booster shot even though until Friday it was only recommended for those with immune system disorders, an indication many Americans were not willing to wait for the CDC and FDA's green light to receive an additional dose.
Biden said ultimately his administration plans to give a booster to all Americans. For those who received the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, he said they still have a high level of protection and that scientists were working to review the data on a booster for those shots.
The CDC said that people over the age of 65 and nursing home residents should get a booster six months after their second dose, along with those 50 to 64 years old who have an underlying medical condition. Those 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions or who are at an increased risk because of an occupational or institutional setting "may" get a shot.
The committee of advisers Thursday voted against recommending a booster for people younger than 65 who have a high risk of being exposed to the virus at work.
Biden again called out unvaccinated Americans for continuing to spread the virus and criticized public officials who have raised doubts about the vaccines. Among those eligible for the vaccine, 75 percent are at least partially vaccinated. The number of new cases has started to decline this month after a surge driven by the delta variant that led to hospitals being overwhelmed with mostly unvaccinated patients.
“Do the right thing, and I understand there's a lot of misinformation you've been fed out there, try to look through that, get to people you trust that have been vaccinated, ask them, ask them,” Biden said. “So get vaccinated. But don't just take it from me, listen to the voices of the unvaccinated Americans lying in a hospital bed, taking their final breath saying, and literally we've seen this on television, 'if only I'd gotten vaccinated.'”