Updated November 19, 2021 - 6:20 pm
All adults in Nevada and across the country are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, with U.S. health officials urging people 50 and older to seek one.
The recommendation is aimed at warding off a winter surge as coronavirus cases rise even before millions of Americans travel for the holidays.
Until now, Americans faced a confusing list of who was eligible for a booster that varied by age, their health, which kind of vaccine they got first and occupational risk.
Under the new rules, anyone 18 or older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For anyone who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait already was just two months. And people can mix-and-match boosters from any company.
“We heard loud and clear that people needed something simpler — and this, I think, is simple,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks told the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to agree before the new policy became official late Friday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed a recommendation from her agency’s scientific advisers that — in addition to offering all adults a booster — had stressed that people 50 and older should be urged to get one.
‘A stronger recommendation’
“It’s a stronger recommendation,” said CDC adviser Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure we provide as much protection as we can.”
The CDC also put out a plea for those who had previously qualified but hadn’t yet signed up for a booster to quit putting it off — saying older Americans and people with risks such as obesity, diabetes or other health problems should try to get one before the holidays.
About a dozen states, including Nevada, didn’t wait for federal officials to act before opening boosters to all adults.
Early Friday, before the CDC had signed off, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced that boosters were available for all adults in the state.
When asked why the department decided to make the booster shots more broadly available before final federal approval, spokeswoman Shannon Litz said there were three primary reasons.
“The science is clear behind boosters, the federal government is heading in this direction and Nevada has more than sufficient supply to provide boosters to all those who want it, regardless of age or occupation,” she said.
However, some vaccination providers, such as CVS, said they would wait for final approval from the CDC before more broadly administering boosters. Now that that approval has been given, the pharmacy chain said that nearly 10,000 locations across the country could offer the Pfizer or Moderna boosters beginning Saturday.
195 million considered ‘vaccinated’
Vaccinations began in the U.S. last December, about a year after the coronavirus first emerged. More than 195 million Americans are now fully vaccinated, defined as having received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose J&J. More than 32 million already have received a booster, a large proportion — 17 million — people 65 or older. Experts say that’s reassuring as seniors are at particularly high risk from COVID-19 and were among the first in line for initial vaccinations
Teen boosters aren’t yet under discussion, and kid-sized doses of Pfizer’s vaccine are just now rolling out to children ages 5 to 11.
The Biden administration had originally planned on boosters for all adults but until now, U.S. health authorities — backed by their scientific advisers — had questioned the need for such a widespread campaign. Instead, they first endorsed Pfizer or Moderna boosters only for vulnerable groups such as older Americans or those at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems, their jobs or their living conditions.
This time around, the experts agreed the overall benefits of added protection from a third dose for any adult — six months after their last shot — outweighed risks of rare side effects from Moderna’s or Pfizer’s vaccine, such as a type of heart inflammation seen mostly in young men.
Contact Mike Brunker at email@example.com or 702-383-4656. Follow @mike_brunker on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed ot this report. Review-Journal staff writer Mary Hynes contributed to this report.