The latest on Covid-19 vaccine boosters in the US

By Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:32 a.m. ET, October 20, 2021
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5:51 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

US health officials likely to recommend Pfizer and Moderna boosters starting at age 40, source says

From CNN'S Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield

The US government likely will soon recommend booster shots to people as young as 40 who received either Moderna or Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, according to a source familiar with the plan. 

“I believe it will happen,” the source said.

Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized booster shots for people age 65 and older who received their second shot of Pfizer’s vaccine at least six months ago.

For younger people, the booster is authorized only for certain groups, such as those with certain health conditions or those working in jobs that put them at high risk for contracting Covid-19.

Last week, a panel of FDA advisers recommended that Moderna boosters be given with the same rules. However, boosters for Moderna have yet to be granted authorization by the FDA.

The source said there is “growing concern within the FDA” that US data is beginning to show hospitalizations among people under age 65 who have been fully vaccinated. 

Some more background: If the FDA backs lowering the age for boosters, the plan would then go to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for its sign off. Vaccine advisers to that agency are meeting Thursday to discuss Covid-19 booster shots.

Israel, where nearly all vaccinations have been with Pfizer, started offering boosters in August to everyone more than six months past their second shot, regardless of age.

Israeli researchers told the FDA advisers last week that the boosters have reduced the rate of severe disease in people over age 40.

At that meeting, a senior FDA official said the Israeli data “seems compelling.”

Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, mentioned that newly emerging data in the US “makes us realize that we’re concerned that what was seen in Israel could be seen here." 

“We don’t want to have a wave of severe Covid-19 before we deploy boosters,” he added.

Several members of the advisory committee expressed support for lowering the age recommendation.

“In general, I wasn’t a fan of reducing the cutoff to a lower age, because I think this severe disease isn’t terribly great in that population, but hearing all these arguments I would support that now more,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa.

The advisers voiced concern about giving boosters to younger people, since Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine have been associated with myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in male adolescents and young adults.

Last week, the FDA vaccine advisers recommended that people of all ages who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a booster 2 months after their original shot. Boosters for this vaccine are also awaiting authorization by the FDA.

3:51 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Illinois governor urges people to get Covid-19 booster shots 

From CNN’s Carma Hassan 

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks to the press in Chicago in August.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks to the press in Chicago in August. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker urged state residents who are eligible to get a Covid-19 booster, saying it is especially life-saving for seniors. 

“We do know that advanced age is one of the most significant risk factors in breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths, which is exactly why booster shots are being recommended for everyone 65 and over, as well as all people living in long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the state's public health director. “The data clearly show that while the vaccine continues to offer protection to everyone, the overwhelming majority of the hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid after being fully vaccinated have occurred in those over the age of 65.”

Pritzker said his office is “calling on skilled nursing facilities to make booster shots available to all of their residents and staff before Thanksgiving.” 

“Get your booster shot so that you can get even more protected than you are today. Get your flu shot so you can make this flu season as non-existent as the last, and let's get out of this pandemic. We can do it by continuing to work together for the common good,” the governor said.  

Correction: An earlier version of the photo caption misspelled the last name of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker.

1:12 p.m. ET, October 19, 2021

About 1 in 7 vaccinated seniors in the US have received a Covid-19 booster dose

From CNN's Deidre McPhillips

Chen Knifsend rolls up her sleeve as she prepares to receive a Covid-19 vaccine booster in San Rafael, California, on October 1.
Chen Knifsend rolls up her sleeve as she prepares to receive a Covid-19 vaccine booster in San Rafael, California, on October 1. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

About 1 in 7 vaccinated seniors in the United States have received a Covid-19 booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine, according to the latest data published Monday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here’s latest CDC data on vaccination efforts in the US:

  • Fully vaccinated: 57% of the total US population (all ages), about 189 million people
  • Not vaccinated: 22.9% of the eligible population (12 years and older), about 65 million people
  • Current pace of vaccinations (seven-day average): 245,542 people are initiating vaccination each day.
  • This is about the same as last week (2% drop) and a 28% drop from a month earlier.
  • An average of 817,729 doses are being administered each day
  • About 10.7 million people have received an additional dose, or booster
  • More than half of those who have received a booster dose, nearly 7 million, are seniors age 65 or older
  • Among those 65 and older who are fully vaccinated, one out of every seven– about 15% — have received a booster
  • Among those 50 and older who are fully vaccinated, about 9% have received a booster
  • 35 states have fully vaccinated more than half of their residents: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as Washington, DC. 
10:51 a.m. ET, October 19, 2021

Can I get a Covid-19 booster today? It depends.

From CNN's Holly Yan

What’s the latest with booster shots? Who can get an extra dose of Covid-19 vaccine?

That depends on which vaccine you originally got and whether you’re in a high-risk group.

Some immunocompromised people have been able to get third doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, as they might not get as much help from a two-dose course as others do.

The Pfizer vaccine has also been authorized for use as a booster if you’re at least six months past your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and fall into one of these groups:

Advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration recently recommended those same high-risk groups who happened to get the Moderna vaccine instead of the Pfizer should also be able to get a booster dose. But the FDA would first have to authorize Moderna booster shots for those groups, and typically the director of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would also have to sign off.

As for those who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, FDA advisers recommended all adults who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a booster dose at least two months after the first shot. The FDA is also considering that recommendation.

Read more answers to your top Covid-19 questions here.

10:36 a.m. ET, October 19, 2021

FDA plans to allow mix-and-match Covid-19 boosters

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

The US Food and Drug Administration is planning on allowing Americans to receive a different coronavirus vaccine for their booster shots than their original dose, according to two sources familiar with the current thinking inside the agency. 

While the details on exactly what language the FDA will use remains unclear, it's expected to make a broad authorization on "mixing and matching" potentially as soon as this week. 

While this could apply to all FDA-authorized vaccines in the US, officials realize it has been the biggest concern for those who received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The FDA has already authorized boosters of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for some adults, and is currently considering authorization of boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine advisers are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss Moderna and J&J boosters.

The National Institutes of Health last week presented to the FDA's vaccine advisers early information from an ongoing study showing that it didn't matter which vaccine people got first and which booster they got – it was safe to mix boosters and it revved up immune response. Mixing boosters also provided a good response to the Delta variant.