President Biden on Friday watered down advice from US health agencies to restrict booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to certain Americans — recognizing that people will jump the line and refusing to condemn those who do.
On Thursday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky recommended only doling out a third dose to older Americans and those at high risk due to their jobs or living conditions.
But when a reporter asked Biden on Friday what his message would be for those who disregard the new CDC guidance and get a booster shot anyway, the president appeared to brush it off — saying the extra jabs would eventually be widely available “anyway.”
“Well, I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to see that in the near term, that we’re probably going to open this up anyway,” Biden responded.
“Constantly we’re looking at, we’re looking at both Moderna and J&J as I said in the speech.”
US health officials are also considering a time “when we’re going to be able to expand the booster shots basically across the board,” Biden instead decided to highlight.
“So I would just say, it’d be better to wait your turn in line, wait your turn in line, you know, wait your turn to get there,” the president suggested people do, rather than firmly support the CDC’s advice.
The CDC recommended only doling out a third dose to older Americans and front-line or exposed workers.Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
A message seeking a response from CDC and Food and Drug Administration officials to Biden’s comments were not immediately returned Friday.
Biden’s remarks come just hours after Walensky overruled the CDC’s advisory panel, which rejected recommending booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for some younger Americans at high risk, including health care workers and teachers, or those who live in homeless shelters or are in jail.
Walensky instead endorsed a wider series of recommendations late Thursday, which included those with an increased risk of infection as well as the panel’s advice to dole out third doses to Americans aged 65 and over and those 50 and older with chronic health issues.
The panel voted 9-6 to reject the broader proposal, but the CDC chief noted her decision aligned with the FDA’s authorization earlier this week.
“As CDC director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said in a statement Thursday.
“At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
The boosters can be administered six months after the recipient’s last jab.
However, the rollout will rely on “self-attestation” — or the honor system — to prevent non-eligible people from getting boosters, Walensky said at a White House COVID-19 briefing Friday.
President Biden watered down advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restrict booster shots of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to certain Americans.Getty Images
Dr. Anthony Fauci told Politico he agreed with Walensky’s decision to align with the FDA’s booster authorization.
“Dr. Walensky made a good judgment and showed good leadership in making that decision,” Fauci said. “I totally agree and support that decision she made.”
Meanwhile, Biden also confirmed Friday that he planned to get his own booster shot soon.
“It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” he told reporters.
An administration official said the White House didn’t have input in Walensky’s decision and wasn’t alerted beforehand.
With Post wires