A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel overwhelmingly voted Friday against giving Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 booster shots to most people on Friday, agreeing only to distribute them to people ages 65 and up as well as those at high risk of severe illness.
The unanimous recommendation of boosters for a limited group of Americans was the second vote called by the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC, during its meeting Friday.
The committee of outside experts was first asked whether a third shot of Pfizer’s vaccine would be safe and effective for everyone ages 16 and older. Members overwhelmingly voted against that recommendation, citing concerns about the level of evidence showing the boosters are safe for younger people.
“We’re being asked to approve this as a three-dose vaccine for people 16 years of age and older, without any clear evidence if the third dose for a younger person when compared to an elderly person is of value,” said committee member Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Such feedback led to further debate among the committee members about specific age groups or populations that may be most appropriate for a third dose of vaccine. The panel subsequently narrowed the recommendation to those over age 65 and anyone at higher risk for severe illness.
People at high-risk of exposure at work, such as health care workers and teachers, will likely also be eligible for a booster dose.
The panel’s recommendation will now go to the FDA, which is not required to follow VRBPAC’s vote, but usually does. The FDA will decide whether to issue an emergency use authorization for the booster doses.
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