Image of Covid-19 vaccination record card with vials and syringe.
Image credit: Getty Images, Bill Oxford

The Food and Drug Administration’s decision to authorize COVID-19 booster vaccinations for all U.S. adults last week will reduce confusion about who should get the shots, the agency said. But the action may not head off a winter virus surge, observers say.

COVID-19 booster vaccines were authorized for residents of long-term care facilities and other vulnerable adults including healthcare workers earlier in the fall. But uncertainty has festered about who exactly should be getting the shots and when.

“We heard loud and clear that people needed something simpler — and this, I think, is simple,” FDA vaccine chief Peter Marks, M.D., told the Associated Press.

Expert vaccine advisors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the corresponding clinical safety recommendations late Friday afternoon.

Anyone 50 or older, and anyone 18 or older living in a long-term care facility, who has already been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine should receive a COVID-19 booster dose, the CDC committee determined. Additionally, anyone 18 or older who already has been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine may receive a COVID-19 booster dose. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has endorsed these recommendations.

The federal action comes as COVID-19 cases are spiking. Several states are currently experiencing an increase in cases and hospitalizations. And federal health agencies have noted a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations among patients who have not yet received a booster shot, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, told NBC last week. Fully 40% of the U.S. population aged 65 years and older has received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot as of Sunday, Nov. 21, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What’s more, increasing protection among the vaccinated likely won’t contain an expected surge in cases as winter sets in, experts said.

Boosters play a role in controlling the spread of COVID-19, one infectious disease physician told Newsweek. But experts agree that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the best way to prevent surges, the news outlet reported.

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