Washington, Sep 24 (EFE).- Third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine will be made available in the coming weeks to as many as 60 million residents of the United States, including 20 million who are eligible for the booster right now, President Joe Biden said Friday.
“If you got the Pfizer vaccine in January, February, March of this year and you’re over 65 years of age, go get the booster,” he said at the White House. “Or if you have a medical condition like diabetes, or you’re a front-line worker, like a health care worker or a teacher, you can get a free booster now.”
“I’ll be getting my booster shot, it’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” the 78-year-old president said.
Pfizer is the only Covid-19 vaccine to have received full approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and there is no time-frame for authorization of boosters of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Biden addressed the nation hours after the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that she decided to go beyond the recommendation of an independent advisory panel and approve the booster for front-line workers.
The agency’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices had urged limiting boosters to the elderly and people with underlying conditions, taking a more conservative approach than the FDA’s outside experts, who endorsed a third shot for people in high-risk jobs.
“As CDC director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
The Biden administration said in August that boosters would be made available to the general public beginning this week.
The White House made the case for widespread use of boosters by pointing to a dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases and deaths due to the Delta variant and data indicating that the effectiveness of the vaccines declines over time.
But the plan was derailed last Friday when the members of the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 16-2 against Pfizer’s proposal to administer a third dose to all vaccinated people six months after the second dose.
“The decision of which booster shot to give and who will get them is left to the scientists and the doctors,” Biden said Friday.
People eligible to get a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be able to get their shots at more than 80,000 locations nationwide, including more than 40,000 pharmacies, he said.
The administration still expects at some point “to be able to expand the booster shots basically across the board,” Biden said.
And while he hailed figures showing that 182 million Americans – 75 percent of those eligible – are fully vaccinated as “incredible progress,” the president again called on vaccine resisters to get the shot.
“In a country as large as ours, that 25 percent minority can cause an awful lot of damage, and they are causing a lot of damage,” he said.
The US leads the world in Covid-19 deaths, with 684,000, and cases, which are approaching 43 million. EFE