CDC Advisory Panel Could Vote on Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Booster

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
September 22, 2021 Updated: September 22, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel could vote on the use of a third shot of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

The panel is holding a virtual, two-day meeting.

At the start of the discussion, which includes presentations from Pfizer, a CDC official said the advisory panel vote could take place on Thursday.

No vote is scheduled on the draft agenda, but two-and-a-half hours are unfilled.

The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), is meeting to discuss which Americans should get the third vaccine shot a booster is authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Pfizer has asked the FDA to approve the third shot for all people aged 16 and over, and Biden administration officials have said they will recommend everybody 16 and up get boosters if they’re approved by drug regulators. But the FDA’s advisory panel voted last week only to recommend boosters for people 65 and older, or those 16 or older and deemed high-risk from COVID-19.

Members of both panels are outside experts brought in to help the CDC and FDA make policy decisions and recommendations.

The FDA has not yet said how it plans to proceed, though Dr. Peter Marks, the agency’s top vaccine official, signaled the FDA could overrule its advisory pane. He told members that “we are not bound at FDA by your vote.”

Any break from either advisory panel would be notable because such a situation rarely arises.

An FDA spokeswoman did not return a voicemail or an email on Wednesday.

While the FDA panel makes recommendations on who should be cleared to get a booster, the CDC’s panel focuses on clarifying certain issues, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA director and Pfizer board member, said on CNBC on Tuesday.

“They provide granular guidance to physicians and patients, and they interpret the recommendations that come out of the Food and Drug Administration,” Gottlieb said. “So for example, they might say that they might enumerate the kinds of severe conditions that would qualify someone for a booster.”

Pfizer’s Bill Gruber told ACIP during the meeting that there are plans to further evaluate booster doses in adults who participated in the company’s original clinical trials, with follow-up analysis of antibodies and other metrics stretching to 18 months.

Data on Pfizer’s shot and the two others authorized or approved for use in the United States show they have waned in efficacy in terms of preventing infection, though they have held up relatively well against hospitalization and death. Proponents of boosters say they’re needed to bolster protection against infection. Some officials, though, have expressed concern about the safety profile of boosters, and note the lack of data about how people will react to additional doses.

Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.