This week, the FDA made its formal recommendations about Pfizer booster shots. Not one to be left out, the CDC made a more widespread recommendation Thursday, changing the narrative about who should get the shot, and when.
This has been a common pattern throughout the pandemic, with different health agencies, including the FDA, the CDC, and the WHO making different proclamations.
"At the end of the day, we just have to make a decision and move on," said Dr. Monica Gandhi, Professor of Medicine and Associate Chief of Infectious Diseases at UCSF on Friday’s Ask an Expert with Holly Quan and Dan Mitchinson at KCBS Radio.
The CDC did make it clear that people over the age of 65 should get the shot, regardless of health condition. Then it gets a bit vaguer, said Gandhi. Those 50-64 should get the shot if they are "at risk for a severe breakthrough," and those 18-49 should get it if they have "one or more medical conditions" that make them at risk of contracting COVID-19.
These additional guidelines allow a bit more "discretion" between physicians and patients on whether or not they should get the shot. The CDC also provided a provision for those at risk of coming into contact with the virus, such as health workers or other frontline workers to get the booster.
"It’s pretty much as wide as you can get it," said Gandhi. "It’s kind of like anyone who wants it can get it."
People with conditions related to obesity, diabetes, pulmonary disease, respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and kidney and renal disease are eligible to get the booster.
The most vital element of the CDC guidelines is making the booster available for those over the age of 65, said Gandhi. "We don’t have that many severe breakthroughs," she said.
There are 178 million Americans fully vaccinated, said Gandhi. Of those, there have been 10,000 breakthroughs and 2,000 deaths. That essentially boils down to around one in a million chance of dying from COVID-19 for those who’ve been vaccinated. But of that small percentage of breakthrough cases, 87% are over the age of 65, she said.