CDC Panel Debates Who Should Get Latest COVID Vaccine

This story has been updated. 

Sept. 12, 2023 – A CDC advisory committee of doctors and nurses voted 13-1 to recommend all Americans age 6 and up get an updated COVID-19 vaccine designed to target newer versions of the virus. 

CDC Director Mandy Cohen, MD, MPH, must still sign off before shots can start to be given. Vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech have said they are the ready to make the shots available.

If Cohen accepts the panel’s recommendation — which is expected — Medicaid, Medicare and private insurance companies would be required to cover the cost of the vaccines with no charge to patients. 

“Today’s actions are an essential step in helping protect public health in advance of the fall and winter respiratory illness season. The broad-based, routine and FDA-approved recommendations endorsed today enable anyone who could benefit from the vaccine to get immunized, if they choose,” said Sue Peschin, CEO of the Alliance for Aging Research, one of three groups that form the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project.

On Monday, the FDA approved the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech updated vaccines for people ages 6 months or older. In an announcement of the approval, the FDA stated that the new version of the shot better targets the currently circulating variants of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, and will “provide better protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death.”

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices discussed current variants and virus lineages, vaccine effectiveness, an “economic analysis of COVID-19 vaccination,” safety, and a program that provides free vaccines to people without insurance or who are under-insured. There will also be a public comment period, according to the meeting agenda. 

The lone “no” vote came from a panel member who said she was not against the vaccine, but believed there is not yet enough data on the vaccine’s effects on children and infants. She believed the “universal” recommendation went too far. 

The committee is expected to say who should get the vaccine, and that recommendation could be a universal one or could be based on a person’s risk level, such as whether they are older, a health-care worker, are pregnant, or have a lowered immune system, Bill Schaffner, MD, told CNN. Schaffner is an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, and he also represents the National Foundation of Infectious Diseases at meetings of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. 

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