Some 60 million Americans are now eligible to receive a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine, six months after their second injection, said Joe Biden on Friday, after a regulatory marathon that took shed light on the divisions in the scientific community on the issue.
The American health authorities finally recommended this booster dose for three categories of the population: people 65 years of age and over, those between 18 and 64 years old with risk factors for developing a serious form of the disease (diabetes, obesity, etc. .), as well as those very exposed to coronavirus within the framework of their work or their place of life.
This last category, which is very broad, includes teachers, supermarket employees, health workers, prisoners and people in shelters for the homeless.
A total of 20 million eligible people received their second dose long enough ago to already be eligible to receive the third, Biden said.
“Go make your recall”, asked them during a speech the US president of 78 years, specifying that he would bend himself to the exercise.
He promised that people vaccinated with Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s products would also see their turn coming as the study of the data about them is carried out. And he predicted that all Americans could eventually receive a recall, “in the near future.”
Some immunocompromised people could already receive a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines in the United States since early August.
If the number of Americans concerned is therefore large, it remains less than what had been announced in mid-August by the government.
His wish was that a large vaccine booster campaign from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna be launched from this week, for all American adults without distinction.
But this measure was suspended with the approval of the health authorities. Moderna did not submit the necessary data on time. And the experts were very divided during the study of the Pfizer case.
Last week, members of an advisory committee of the United States Drugs Agency (FDA) refused to allow the third dose to be given to all adults.
On Wednesday, the agency then authorized this booster dose as a matter of urgency, according to criteria that were still very broad, for those over 65 and other people “at risk”.
However, since all vaccines are purchased and distributed through the U.S. state, how they are administered is also subject to detailed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
On Thursday, CDC experts added to the confusion, voting against the inclusion of people frequently exposed to the virus because of their profession or situation.
The debates had lasted for hours and several experts had said they were “torn”.
The risk of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, in young men weighed heavily in the balance. Experts had also highlighted the lack of data available before 65 years.
They agreed, however, that the effectiveness of the remedy clearly declines over time in older people.
But on the night of Thursday to Friday, the head of the CDC, Rochelle Walensky, finally decided – a rare occurrence – to override the opinion of her own committee of experts, by including people at risk because of their profession.
A 3rd dose for “people at high risk of catching the disease” especially because of their work, as well as for other populations such as the elderly, is “the best way to serve the needs of the nation in terms of public health, ”Walensky said in a statement.
She recalled that the CDC must be based on “complex and often imperfect data”.
Even if the two-dose vaccine is still proving very effective against hospitalizations today, increasing the protection of workers makes it possible to better protect them against mild cases of the disease, and therefore to keep them at work.
These recall campaigns are strongly criticized by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the name of vaccine inequalities between rich and poor countries.
The United States ensures that they can lead a campaign of recall and aid to foreign countries: Washington this week raised its pledge of vaccine donations to countries in need to 1.1 billion doses.