President Biden on Friday urged people who are not yet eligible for coronavirus booster shots to be patient, while suggesting eligibility could expand rapidly.
He said that his administration was “looking to the time when we’re going to be able to expand the booster shots, basically across the board,” and that boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines were likely in the offing.
“So I would just say, it’d be better to wait your turn in line, wait your turn to get there,” Mr. Biden said.
His remarks came hours after Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for frontline workers, as well as for people older than 65 and many people with underlying health conditions, overruling an agency advisory panel. Individuals must also have received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. Her move, though highly unusual, aligned C.D.C. policy with the Food and Drug Administration’s endorsements over her own agency’s advisers.
According to the C.D.C., as of Friday, more than 100 million of the fully vaccinated people in the United States received the Pfizer vaccine, while more than 82 million — or about 45 percent of the total — received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson doses.
Scientific advisers to the F.D.A. and C.D.C. have been not asked to judge whether people who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines should receive any additional doses. Booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients have not been authorized by the F.D.A. Still, many Americans have already scrambled to get boosters even before federal regulators signed off this week on Pfizer boosters, typically by finding a cooperative pharmacist or by claiming to be unvaccinated.
The C.D.C. advisers noted this week that recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines might understandably feel resentful of being asked to wait if the evidence suggests they need boosters.
Dr. Sarah Long, a pediatrician and infectious diseases expert at Drexel University College of Medicine in Pennsylvania, said she didn’t understand how the authorities could “say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe disease and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now.’”
“It might be the right thing to do,” she said. “It just doesn’t sound like a good public health policy.”
Authorization for Moderna’s booster could arrive in days or weeks. The company has filed its booster application with the F.D.A., calling for a shot carrying half the dosage given in the first two shots. That detail has complicated the agency’s deliberations.
Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.
- Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.
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