Prior to the rollout ofa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention task force wrestled for months over whether the shot should be recommended for all eligible Americans or only for some of the most vulnerable groups.
The latter approach is e.g. have been taken up by other countries such as The United Kingdomwho, in turn, only offer their drop shots to people at greatest risk of serious illness, such as seniors and those with underlying medical conditions.
But a panel of the CDC’s outside experts ultimately voted Tuesday in favor of broad recommendations for the shots, thanks in part to CDC data that found healthy, young and mostly unboosted Americans are still being hospitalized by the virus.
“There was some concern that the task force went into its deliberations this summer assuming that a universal vaccination strategy was the obvious policy choice, but I just want to reiterate that that was largely not the case,” Dr. Matthew Daley, Head of Department. The COVID-19 Vaccines Working Group within the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said at their meeting Tuesday. But that’s where the data took them.
They updated shots that were green light Monday by the Food and Drug Administration, has been reformulated to target the newer XBB of the virus.
All Americans, including children as young as 6 months old, who are eligible for the revised shots are now encouraged to get a dose prior to.
“CDC now recommends updated COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 6 months and older to better protect you and your loved ones,” said CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen on Tuesday in a statement following the panel’s vote.
Daley said the group “essentially started with a blank slate” when trying to reevaluate vaccine recommendations ahead of this fall.
Among the data they asked the CDC to collect was whether healthy children and young adults were still at risk of serious illness from the virus.
While the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations remains worst in seniors and in babies under 6 months, the agency has presented data notes that otherwise healthy Americans of all ages are still being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Among school-aged children aged 5 to 11 years, 23% of admissions were in children without underlying conditions. Most children facing severe COVID-19 had not received a booster shot, and many were unvaccinated.
“That was the most compelling argument to me knowing that there were deaths, including among children, including those without chronic conditions. And my view is that those deaths are preventable with vaccines,” Daley said.
Only one member of the 14-member panel voted against the universal recommendation.
“I just want to make it clear that I’m not against this vaccine. The data looks great,” said ACIP member Dr. Pablo Sanchez after his vote. Sanchez expressed concern about what he saw as “extremely limited data” on the benefits to children and healthier young adults from the vaccine.
The balance of benefits and risks may be too narrow for some young adult men who are at higher risk for myocarditis, a rare side effect from the shots, Sanchez suggested. That put him at odds with others on the panel who cited data suggest the benefits of the shots outweigh the risks, even for those at the highest risk for myocarditis.
Myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, usually responds well to treatment The CDC saysand research shows that people are more likely to develop myocarditis from a COVID infection than from the vaccine.
“I think all of that has to be weighed. And so that’s why I’m hesitant to make it a universal recommendation, even though I support vaccination with the COVID vaccine,” Sanchez said.
Trying to make tailored recommendations could also be impractical to implement, CDC officials said the task force concluded, and risk setting up barriers to vaccination for those most at risk.
More than 7 in 10 adults are already at higher risk of severe COVID-19 because of obesity, agency says saidand would qualify as a higher risk group regardless.
“Modelling projects, more hospitalizations and deaths are averted when updated doses are universally recommended compared with no recommendation or recommendation only for people 65 and older,” CDC’s Megan Wallace told the panel.
Officials also emphasized that, unlike other vaccines, insurance coverage of the shots would not be directly tied to the panel’s recommendations.
Insurance companies was required to cover up the shots immediately after they were given the green light by the FDA under a law passed earlier in the pandemic.
And while most Americans are now recommended to get a shot, officials said they still planned to focus their promotion of the shots to those at highest risk of serious disease and could benefit the most.
“Under a universal recommendation, we would still have targeted communications for older adults, immunocompromised individuals, and others at higher risk,” said CDC’s Dr. Barbara Mahon.