Local health experts weigh in on FDA, CDC approval of Pfizer boosters for some Americans


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are giving the green light for some Americans to get a booster dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Thursday afternoon, CDC advisors voted to approve the FDA’s recommendation that people over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions are now eligible to get a booster of the COVID-19 vaccine. This only applies to people who have the Pfizer vaccine and got their second dose more than six months ago.  

Dr. Brian Martin, with Eastern Virginia Medical School, says this process may seem confusing, but scientists are making the best decisions they can with the data they have.

“The question is, is are the vaccines for COVID-19, are we seeing some waning immunity like we do with the other vaccines? So I think there’s some early evidence that we are, but there’s also evidence that they remain highly effective in particular against severe illness or disease,” said Martin. “There’s so much being learned every single day. Boosters are not new in the vaccine world. What’s happening is that the scientific community is using the best data to make decisions on a daily basis.”

The CDC did not authorize booster shots for people based on where they work, which was something the FDA had recommended.

Health experts expect boosters to be offered for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines in the coming weeks.

‘The best strategy that we have right now, not only here in Virginia but in the country and around the world is to be vaccinated,” said Martin. “That’s how we’re going to beat the virus and the mutations that are going to come out.”

Cindy Williams, who is the vice president of pharmacy for Riverside Health System, says they will follow CDC guidance as they administer booster shots.

“The booster doses are important because of some vaccine efficacy waning, although the vaccines are still showing some efficacy against serious disease, hospitalization and death,” said Williams. “If you are over the age of 65 and you have received Pfizer as your primary series and that second dose of Pfizer is six months or more behind you, then you qualify for a booster today.”

Both Williams and Martin agree — people getting their primary doses will be key in stopping the pandemic.

On Friday, Virginia Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula released a statement on the latest booster approval.

“Virginia welcomes the decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support booster shots for certain people who previously received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been working with its vaccination partners — pharmacies, healthcare providers, hospitals and other institutions — to prepare for this rollout. We are confident that we will have enough supply, and that access will be widely available.

“VDH is also establishing other vaccination sites to ensure eligible Virginians will be able to access a booster dose when it’s recommended. There is no need to rush to get your booster at six months and one day. VDH will provide information about accessing a booster dose on vaccinate.virginia.gov where you can search for and schedule a booster vaccination appointment.”

To help separate fact from fiction, Riverside Health System and the Urban League of Hampton Roads hosted a joint Facebook and YouTube live virtual webinar Thursday. Viewers could ask a panel of experts their questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses.

Panelists included:

  • Cindy Williams, Vice President of Pharmacy for Riverside Health System
  • Toiya Sosa, Chief Diversity Officer for Riverside Health System 
  • Gil Bland, President & CEO, Urban League of Hampton Roads
  • Gaylene Kanoyton, President, NAACP, Portsmouth Chapter & Board Member, Urban League of Hampton Roads
  • Dr. Ethlyn Gibson, Associate Professor at Hampton University’s School of Nursing and Director for the Center for Gerontology and Minority Aging, Hampton University  

The event was on Facebook or on YouTube. If you missed the live event, a recording is available.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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