HHS Secretary on COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Doses

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra issued the following statement on the significance of booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reaching millions of eligible people across the country, following decisions made by Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock and then Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, respectively.

Earlier this week, after reviewing the data and science from an independent advisory panel to the FDA, Dr. Woodcock amended FDA’s emergency-use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to allow a single booster dose, to be administered for individuals 65 years of age and older, as well as in populations at high risk due to underlying medical conditions or due to institutional or occupational exposure, such as health care workers, teachers and prisons. Dr. Walensky’s decision reaffirmed an independent advisory panel’s recommendation to the CDC and additionally determined that workers in high-risk jobs should be eligible for boosters, closely aligning with the FDA authorization.

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“These decisions by Dr. Woodcock and Dr. Walensky, rooted in data and science, put us on a path to further protect millions of people, get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic and save lives. Millions of booster doses are available in pharmacies, health departments, clinics and doctor’s offices. These booster doses can increase protection, especially for our seniors, people with underlying medical conditions and workers in high-risk environments. Our best chance at turning the tide of the Delta variant is ensuring everyone possible has maximum available protection against COVID-19 infection, severe illness and death. I commend CDC and FDA for their thorough and independent process of evaluating vaccine safety and effectiveness.” – Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra

As Dr. Walensky outlined, CDC determined that:

  • People 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • People aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • People aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and  people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.
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HHS states it will continue to monitor the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines in the weeks to come, continuing to evaluate the data and science as it evolves.

The Secretary has issued a directive, effective September 25, authorizing all CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program providers to make available and administer Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses to all people who are eligible. Read the Secretarial directive on eligibility to receive particular COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

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