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Local News

NYC moves ahead with boosters for all as FDA deliberates

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NYC moves ahead with boosters for all as FDA deliberates

2021-11-16 07:36:00

By Ravi Kumar Image Source: Screen Shot

All adults in New York City joined a growing group of people in the U.S. who can get Covid-19 booster shots Monday, even though federal health agencies haven’t signed off on the move.

New York City health officials on Monday encouraged all adults who want to receive coronavirus vaccine boosters to seek them out and asked health providers not to turn them away, a move that comes as federal regulators consider expanding the eligibility pool for Pfizer-BioNTech’s booster.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr. Dave Chokshi, the health commissioner, made the announcement, which skirts both authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Clinicians should allow adult patients to determine their own risk of exposure based on their individual circumstances,” said Dr. Chokshi.

New York City’s move to open up booster eligibility to all adults came just days after three states — California, Colorado and New Mexico — announced that they will administer boosters to any fully vaccinated adults who want them, as long as it has been six months since their second doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccines or two months since their first Johnson & Johnson shots. New York City will follow the same criteria. 

“For qualifying for a booster, if you’re over 18, one of the specific criteria is being at higher risk and I view all New Yorkers, because of the density of our city, of being at higher risk,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the city’s public hospitals.

The Pfizer and the Moderna booster shots are authorized for people ages 65 and up, those living in long-term care facilities and people ages 18 to 64 who are at a higher risk because of their jobs or underlying medical conditions. The Johnson & Johnson booster is available to anyone who was initially vaccinated with the brand’s vaccine two months earlier. 

Nearly 30 million boosters had been administered in the U.S. as of Monday, according to the CDC. The majority have gone to people over 50, with just under 6 million administered to people ages 18 to 50.

The states are taking matters into their own hands less than a week after Pfizer asked the FDA for emergency use authorization for its booster shot for all adults, a move that would essentially do away with the complicated criteria surrounding eligibility. The FDA hasn’t yet decided on Pfizer's request. But the criteria haven’t meant the boosters are out of reach for the general public. 

“They don’t need to provide any proof or documentation of a specific medical condition or employment. In practice, I think those individuals who want to get a booster dose regardless of their eligibility are doing so anyway, and it’s nearly impossible to enforce that,” said Dr. Martin Backer, associate director of the Vaccine Center at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island.

Dr. Jesse Goodman, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University Medical Center and a former chief scientist with the FDA, said the decisions to move forward without official signoff were “unfortunate, ill-considered and a dangerous precedent for state or local governments to unilaterally extend use of the booster dose of Covid vaccines beyond current recommendations.” 

“Any such decisions should be made nationally and only after independent review by FDA and CDC,” Goodman said. “Acting based on personal opinions or politics and with incomplete data is irresponsible and undermines protections in place to help ensure the best possible decisions.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr. Chokshi encouraged New Yorkers and health providers to interpret the current federal guidelines more loosely to allow more adults to get the booster now. More than 630,000 New Yorkers have already received a booster shot, Dr. Chokshi said Monday.

The move is part of an effort to slow the spread of the virus before the winter and ahead of the holiday season, when spending more time indoors amid dropping temperatures may increase exposure.

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