Covid-19 vaccine booster doses approved for some US adults

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Melissa Mahtani and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:01 PM ET, Fri September 24, 2021
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2:00 p.m. ET, September 24, 2021

"We will not boost our way out of this pandemic," CDC director says 

From CNN's Virginia Langmaid

(Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Pool/AP)
(Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Pool/AP)

Booster doses of Covid-19 will not be enough to end the Covid-19 pandemic, and the focus remains on vaccinating the unvaccinated, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Friday.

Walensky earlier okayed the use of booster shots for people who got Pfizer vaccines at least six months ago and who are either 65 or older, or over 18 and with underlying conditions putting them at higher risk. She also added health care workers, first responders and others at high occupational risk of infection to the list. 

“While today's action was an initial step related to booster shots, it will not distract us from our most important focus: to get as many people as possible vaccinated with a primary series,” she said in a White House Covid-19 Response Team briefing.

“I want to be clear: we will not boost our way out of this pandemic," she said.

Walensky said as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are increasing in unvaccinated areas, “the most vulnerable are those unvaccinated.” 

“If you are not vaccinated and eligible, I encourage you to get vaccinated to protect your community, your family and yourself," she said.

1:51 p.m. ET, September 24, 2021

NYC's school employee vaccine mandate deadline is Monday. Unions are worried about staff shortages.

From CNN's Mallory Simon

Students enter a public school in Queens, New York, on September 13.
Students enter a public school in Queens, New York, on September 13. (Liao Pan/China News Service/Getty Images)

The leaders of two major unions representing teachers, principals and school supervisors in New York City say they have major concerns about how schools will be both safe and properly staffed ahead of Mayor Bill de Blasio's vaccine mandate deadline Monday.

Both the United Federation of Teachers and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators are calling on de Blasio to delay the deadline, which is Monday at midnight.

As of Thursday, 81% of all Department of Education employees and 87% of teachers have received at least one dose, according to the New York City Department of Education.

That means about 10,000 New York City school teachers have yet to upload proof of their vaccination. If they do not, they risk losing their jobs — faced with the option of either taking a year of unpaid leave, or leaving with a severance package.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and Council of School Supervisors and Administrators President Mark Cannizzaro said they both have no idea at this point just how bad things could be at each individual school, saying that information has not been shared openly by the NYC Board of Education.

“I've heard from several schools that have anywhere between 30 and 100 people currently on a non-compliant list,” Cannizzaro said.

Cannizzaro said that he’s heard urgent concerns from his members about what will unfold on Tuesday morning.

“The truth is, at this point, principals and superintendents have been reaching out consistently to tell us that they are concerned about not having enough staff come Tuesday morning September 28,” Cannizzaro said during a joint press conference with Mulgrew on Friday morning.

“We're probably going to land up in a place where all right, we have five schools in this district that need three or four teachers and then we have two other schools in the district that need 25 teachers,” Mulgrew said.

Cannizzaro and Mulgrew both said de Blasio’s optimism that enough people will get vaccinated by Monday night is not enough and have pushed for an actual plan of action.

“No one has reached out to find out exactly which schools are going to have an issue, and giving them additional support to make sure that the principal, the superintendent and everyone is comfortable that kids will be safe come Tuesday morning,” Cannizzaro said of the Department of Education

The department and de Blasio have said they are prepared for the Monday deadline with reserves prepared to deploy from pools of substitute teachers in the wings or other former teachers working in other areas. The Department of Education says it has a reserve pool of 11,000 substitute teachers.

CNN has reached out to the Mayor’s office and the NYC DOE for comment on the UFT and CSA remarks.

11:19 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

As US rolls out Covid-19 boosters, more than 95% of people in these nations have yet to get one dose

From CNN's Laura Smith-Spark and Allegra Goodwin

Health officials in the United States have said Covid-19 vaccine boosters can begin for older and higher-risk people there. But at least 15 countries around the world — most of them in Africa — have yet to give at least one vaccine dose to more than 3% of their population.

Among them are Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with more than 200 million people, and Ethiopia with around 115 million people, as well as Haiti, only about 700 miles from the US state of Florida.
War-torn Yemen — where so far just 1.1% of the population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine — was inoculating people at a rate of about 244 doses per day, according to the latest data compiled by Reuters.

The decision by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention means millions of Americans can receive booster shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the coming months.

But it goes against calls by the World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for wealthy nations to refrain from boosting their Covid-19 vaccinations until at least the end of the year, to allow more supply to reach poorer nations.

Wealthier nations have been supplying Covid-19 vaccine doses bilaterally and through WHO's vaccine-sharing program COVAX, but donations have so far fallen short of what was pledged for this year.

At least 15 nations have yet to give at least one vaccine dose to more than 3% of their population, according to the latest figures compiled by Reuters. The proportion of people fully vaccinated in these nations is smaller still.

Read more here:

10:37 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

Biden: "Wait your turn" to get a booster shot if you're not in current eligible groups

(Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)
(Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

President Biden advised Americans currently outside the eligible groups who might be looking to get Covid-19 booster shots to wait their turn.

While speaking about the pandemic and boosters at the White House, Biden said scientists and doctors are analyzing data on the potential for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

"We're also looking to the time when we're going to be able to expand the booster shots basically across the board. So I would just say it'd be better to wait your turn in line ... to get there," Biden said.

Right now, Pfizer booster shots are available to people 65 years of age and older, those with underlying medical conditions and frontline workers.

10:21 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

Biden says he'll get his booster as soon as he can

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden called on Americans who have become eligible for Pfizer’s Covid-19 booster shots to get a third shot “now,” and announced he would be getting one himself soon in remarks Friday.

“Hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said.

He added that he was “not sure exactly when” that would happen but that he would get it “as soon as I can.”

His remarks come hours after US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky diverged from the agency's independent vaccine advisers to recommend boosters for a broader group of people — those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings — in addition to adults 65 and older, long-term care facility residents and some people with underlying health conditions.

10:29 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

Biden: "This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated"

(Patrick Semansky/AP)
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

President Biden, speaking from the White House about the Covid-19 pandemic and booster vaccines, said the US has made incredible progress in vaccinating millions of Americans — but 25% of eligible people have still failed to get a single dose of the vaccine.

"This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it's caused by the fact that despite Americans having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months, free vaccines have been available in 80,000 locations, we still have over 70 million Americans who have failed to get a single shot," Biden said.

He continued: "And to make matters worse, there are elected officials actively working to undermine with false information the fight against Covid-19. This is totally unacceptable."

Biden said that while "the vast majority of Americans are doing the right thing," one in four eligible Americans have still not gotten their first vaccine dose.

"In a country as large as ours, that 25% minority can cause an awful lot of damage. They are causing a lot of damage," he said, adding that unvaccinated people "overcrowd our hospitals" and put stress on the health care system.

10:25 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

Biden says scientists are still analyzing data for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters

A dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is prepared at a clinic in Los Angeles, California, on August 7.
A dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is prepared at a clinic in Los Angeles, California, on August 7. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP/Getty Images)

While encouraging Americans 65 years old and over, those with underlying medical conditions and frontline workers who received Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine to get booster shots now, President Biden also said people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that they still have "a high degree of protection."

"Our doctors and scientists are working day and night to analyze the data from those two organizations on whether and when you need a booster shot, and we'll provide updates for you as the process moves ahead," Biden said in an address from the White House.

"Again, the bottom line is if you're fully vaccinated, you're highly protected from severe illness, even if you get Covid-19," he said.

10:14 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

Biden: Some recipients of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine should get their booster shots now

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

(Patrick Semansky/AP)
(Patrick Semansky/AP)

Following CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky's recommendations, President Biden said Americans who received the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 between January and March should get their booster shots now if they are 65 or older or have a medical condition or are frontline workers.

"I'll be getting my booster shot. It's hard to acknowledge I'm over 65, but I'll be getting my booster shot," he said.

Booster shots will be available in 80,000 locations, including over 40,000 pharmacies nationwide, he added.

9:59 a.m. ET, September 24, 2021

NOW: Biden addresses CDC booster decision

President Biden is speaking now following the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's booster decision.

Early Friday morning, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky diverged from the agency's independent vaccine advisers to recommend boosters for a broader group of people – those ages 18 to 64 who are at increased risk of Covid-19 because of their workplaces or institutional settings – in addition to older adults, long-term care facility residents and some people with underlying health conditions.