CDC says COVID booster shots will rely on honor system

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CDC says COVID booster shots will rely on honor system

The rollout of COVID-19 booster shots will rely on the honor system, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday — as the White House announced the jabs would be available to millions of Pfizer recipients “as early as this afternoon.”

“As of today, up to 20 million Americans can get their booster shots,” Jeff Zients, the Biden Administration’s COVID czar, said at a White House briefing.

“We have been preparing and we are hitting the ground running to get booster shots in arms,” he continued.

“There are people who will be getting booster shots as early as this afternoon.”

The move makes a third dose available to Americans aged 65 and over, people over 50 with chronic health issues, and those at high risk due to their jobs or living conditions — such as healthcare workers and teachers, or those who live in homeless shelters or are in jail.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients
“We have been preparing and we are hitting the ground running to get booster shots in arms,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
REUTERS/Tom Brenner

The boosters can be administered six months after the recipient’s last jab.

The rollout will rely on “self-attestation” — or the honor system — to prevent non-eligible people from getting boosters, added CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

The booster shot launch comes after Walensky made the highly unusual decision to go against a CDC advisory panel late Thursday, recommending that boosters be allowed for Americans with high-risk jobs and living conditions — instead of just those over 65 and people 50 and older with underlying health issues.

Her endorsement green-lit booster shots for millions more Americans and aligned with the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization earlier in the week.

Registered Nurse Robert Orallo administers the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
As many as 20 million Americans are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
AFP via Getty Images

On Friday, Walensky addressed concerns that her decision may have undermined confidence in the CDC approval process, which was needed before the White House could roll out the boosters.

“I want to be very clear: I did not overrule an advisory committee. I intently listened to this exceptional group of scientists that publicly and very transparently deliberated for hours over some of these very difficult questions,” she insisted.

“This was a scientific close call. In that situation, it was my call to make. If I had been in the room I would have voted yes.”

She urged people who are concerned about confidence to “listen to deliberation themselves.”

A nurse marks a coronavirus vaccination card with a third "booster" dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine.
Booster shots are available for Americans aged 65 and over, people over 50 with chronic health issues, and those at high risk due to their jobs or living conditions.
AFP via Getty Images

Walensky added that as CDC chief, she was tasked with weighing what would do the most good when making the decision.

“As CDC director, it’s my job to recognize where actions can have the greatest impact. In a pandemic, we often take steps to do the greatest good, even in an uncertain environment —and that is what I’m doing with these recommendations,” she said.

The Biden administration had aimed to begin offering booster shots to people 16 and older the week of Sept. 20 but an FDA advisory panel last week rejected the broader approval, citing a lack of data —throwing up a hurdle for the White House’s timeline.

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