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The Debate Over COVID Booster Shots: CDC Panel Takes Issue Up This Week

A Scripps health official draws from a vile the COVID-19 vaccine prior to administering it to a patient at their new drive-thru vaccination site at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 in Del Mar, Calif.
Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP, Pool
A Scripps health official draws from a vile the COVID-19 vaccine prior to administering it to a patient at their new drive-thru vaccination site at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021 in Del Mar, Calif.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recently said Pfizer boosters shots are not needed for all Americans and instead recommended them for seniors and those at high risk of catching the virus, like health care workers.

"What they basically said is we are not ready — there isn’t enough data saying that each and every American who’s been vaccinated should get a booster dose," said Dr. Francesca Torriani who is director of infection prevention at UC San Diego Health.

The Debate Over COVID Booster Shots: CDC Panel Takes Issue Up This Week
Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

Torriani said the good news is that data shows the Pfizer vaccine still offers protection against hospitalization and death, months after vaccination for most people. She said there is a specific reason boosters are being recommended for those over 65.

"The ability to produce neutralizing antibodies when we’re older — that we’ve seen with the influenza and other vaccines — is not as good," Torriani said.

RELATED: US Panel Backs COVID-19 Boosters Only For Elderly, High-Risk

Later this week a Centers For Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee is taking up the issue of booster shots, which means by the end of the week federal health officials could officially give the go-ahead for seniors and health care workers to start getting them.

"Our hospital is ready to go," Torriani said. "As soon as we have approval we are going to offer the booster to our 65 and older population and to our direct health care worker population."

Currently federal regulators are just looking at a booster approval for the Pfizer vaccine. Those who have gotten Moderna shots will have to wait a little longer. Torriani said regulators also need to take into consideration the world's vaccination supply when discussing booster doses.

"How are we distributing vaccine to other countries because in the end it has to be global coverage and not just simply in my backyard coverage to end the pandemic," she said.

Video: UC San Diego Health Expert Explains FDA Booster Shot Advisory

The immunocompromised are already eligible for Pfizer booster doses. Torrani said it not out of the question that when more data comes in, boosters could be recommended more broadly.

California's Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said Friday that state officials are closely following the developments and working on creating their own recommendations.

"We — along with our local and community partners — have been actively preparing for the possibility of administering booster doses and will be ready to administer immediately if approved,” Aragón said.