The White House said President Joe Biden will receive an additional Covid-19 booster shot if his doctor recommends it, after the US Food and Drug Administration expanded emergency authorization of second Pfizer or Moderna booster doses for adults ages 50 and older as early as four months after their first booster vaccine.
“Obviously, if his doctor recommends that he receive a fourth booster then he would, but he’ll make that decision in consultation with his doctor,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said during the White House press briefing.
Earlier Tuesday, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines to allow adults ages 50 and older to get a second booster as early as four months after their first booster dose of any Covid-19 vaccine. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added that adults who got Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as their primary and first booster shots at least four months prior may now get an additional booster of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines.
The move extends the availability of additional boosters to healthy older adults. The FDA had previously allowed second booster shots for anyone 12 years of age or older who was severely immune deficient, starting four months after their first booster.
The CDC released what’s known as a permissive recommendation – a statement that the shots may be used in this age group for those who want them. The agency is not expected to officially recommend the shots, however.
There is general scientific agreement that third doses help strengthen immunity against severe illness from the virus that causes Covid-19. But the science is far from settled on if or even when fourth doses might be needed since the vaccines continue to offer a high degree of protection against Covid-19 hospitalization and death, even as protection against illness wanes.
Under the new recommendations, both the President and Vice President Kamala Harris would be eligible to receive a second booster. Biden, who is 79 years old, received a Pfizer/BioNTech Covid booster in September. Harris, who is 57 years old, received a Moderna Covid booster last October.
Biden last tested negative for Covid on Monday, following international travel to Belgium and Poland.
Ahead of the trip, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced she would no longer accompany the President on the visit because she had tested positive for Covid. Psaki’s replacement on the trip, White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, tested positive for Covid on Sunday after returning from Europe. Neither was a close contact with the President, according to the White House.
Earlier in March, second gentleman Doug Emhoff tested positive for the virus, marking the first known case of Covid-19 among the first or second families since they took office in January 2021.
Inside the White House over the last month, in accordance with federal public health guidelines, officials and visitors have not been required to wear masks or social distance. Visitors are expected to be tested for Covid-19 before attending official White House events.
In an overview on Tuesday of the White House’s Covid-19 testing protocols, Bedingfield stated that the White House is at times going beyond protocols recommended by federal health agencies and testing Biden more frequently because of his recent international travel.
“The White House takes incredibly strong precautions in alignment, and sometimes as you all know, beyond CDC guidance to ensure that we’re keeping a safe workplace, especially for the President of the United States,” Bedingfield said.
Bedingfield stated that all staff within the Executive Office of the President who surround the President “are tested on a regular cadence here on campus to screen for Covid. That is a step beyond CDC guidance to help lower the risk of Covid on campus.”
“The President’s doctor determines if additional testing is needed in any given week in light of various considerations. … Because of his travel this week, he will test in addition to his regular testing cadence,” she continued.
Bedingfield also said individuals who go into a meeting with the President’s four principal advisers are required to test ahead of time, “and that’s how we know about some of these positive tests in the first place.”
“So for those who test positive, they are required to isolate in alignment with CDC guidance, and must test negative before returning to work, which is also a step beyond CDC guidance,” she said.
Bedingfield would not say whether Biden is taking any additional medication or treatments related to the prevention of Covid. She reiterated that the President tested negative on Monday.
CNN’s Brenda Goodman contributed to this report.