By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky gave final approval Thursday evening to ensuring millions more Americans can receive COVID-19 booster shots and can choose from any of the three available jabs.
Certain individuals who already received the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine were already eligible, but Walensky approved a recommendation issued just hours earlier from a CDC vaccine panel to agree with the Food and Drug Administration to expand the pool to include the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Individuals who received either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna two-round initial dosage are now eligible to receive a booster if they are 65 years of age or older, have underlying health conditions or live or work in high-risk settings.
The roughly 15 million individuals in the US who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a booster if they are 18 or older and received their first dose two or more months ago.
It is up to the individual to determine which of the three boosters they receive in what the CDC is describing as "mix and match" booster dosing. All three of the vaccines remain highly effective in reducing the risk of severe health outcomes, hospitalization and death, the health authority said in a statement.
"These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19," Walensky said.
"The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given. And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant,” she added.
Weekly coronavirus deaths and cases have been on the decline since September as the US continues its vaccine push.
To date, over 77% of people in the US 12 years of age or older have received at least one vaccine shot with over 57% of the American population fully vaccinated. Wide disparities persist, however, in vaccination levels with some states, particularly those in the south and Midwest, having very low rates compared to the rest of the nation.