National Newsletter – Coronavirus

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An influential federal advisory panel overwhelmingly rejected a plan Friday to give Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans, but it endorsed the extra shots for those who are 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease.

The twin votes represented a heavy blow to the Biden administration’s sweeping effort to shore up nearly all Americans’ protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

The decision was made by a committee of outside experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration.

In a surprising turn, the panel first rejected, by a vote of 16-2, boosters for nearly everyone. Members cited a lack of safety data on extra doses and also raised doubts about the value of mass boosters, rather than ones targeted to specific groups.

Then, in an 18-0 vote, it endorsed the extra shot for select portions of the U.S. population — namely, those most at risk from the virus.

That would help salvage part of the White House’s campaign but would still be a huge step back from the huge plan proposed by the administration a month ago to offer booster shots of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to nearly all Americans eight months after they get their second dose.

Friday’s vote was just the first step. The FDA itself is expected to make a decision on boosters in the next few days, though it usually follows the committee’s recommendations.

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