Long-term care residents are one step closer to receiving Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shots after an advisory panel affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a key recommendation Thursday. 

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended booster doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for select adult populations, including residents living in long-term care facilities and seniors aged 65 and older.

The committee’s recommendation now will head to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., for final approval. Shots can begin being administered immediately if she approves the recommendations. 

Long-term care pharmacies had expected ACIP to vote on the recommendation this week. Those who work in long-term care settings have always believed a booster would make sense in people over 65, and especially those in long-term care settings, said Chad Worz, PharmD, CEO of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. 

“The rationale for moving the booster forward in those over 65 years old had more to do with the risk-benefit than actual data showing that older adults don’t mount strong immunity after exposure to COVID or after the initial vaccine series,” Worz told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News last week.

He added that key relationships between long-term care pharmacies, the CDC and providers “have never been more critical” as they prepare to deliver and administer booster shots in facilities. 

The CDC panel on Thursday also recommended that people ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions receive a third dose, and for adults ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions. The advisory group however did not extend that recommendation to people who work in high-risk settings for COVID-19 transmission. 

The third dose approved is only available for those who were initially vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, not Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. Moderna has submitted data to federal health officials on its own booster shot.