“Real world” recommendations
In the end, however, the panel felt it was more important to be permissive in allowing boosters so that individuals and their doctors could be free to make their own decisions.
“The decision made by the FDA and the ACIP recommendations, I think, reflects the real world. The public is going to do what they feel driven to do. This at least adds a scientific review of the currently available data,” said Jay Varkey, MD, an infectious disease physician and associate professor at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved in the ACIP’s deliberations.
Dr. Varkey said he would recommend that anyone who is younger than 65, and who has no underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or obesity, speak with their doctor about their individual benefits and risks before getting a booster.
The CDC is planning to release a detailed suite of clinical considerations to help people weigh the risks and benefits of getting a booster.
Safety updates presented at the meeting show that serious adverse events after vaccination are extremely rare, but in some cases, they may rise above the risk for those problems generally seen in the population.
Those rare events include the disabling autoimmune condition Guillain-Barré syndrome and the platelet disorder thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS), which causes blood clots along with the risk of excess bleeding because of a low platelet count.
Both can occur after the J&J vaccine. Out of 15.3 million doses of the vaccine given to date, there have been 47 cases of TTS and five deaths. These events are more common in younger women.
The mRNA vaccines, such as those from Pfizer and Moderna, can cause heart inflammation called myocarditis or pericarditis. This side effect is more common in men 18-24 years old. The reported rate of myocarditis after vaccination is 39 cases for every 1 million doses.
In voting to permit boosters, committee member Wilbur Chen, MD, professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for Vaccine Development, said he hoped boosters wouldn’t give Americans false confidence.
Dr. Chen stressed that ending the pandemic would depend on “a multilayered approach” that includes masking, social distancing, avoiding large crowds indoors, and convincing more Americans to take their first doses of the vaccines.
“We’re not just going to vaccinate ourselves out of this situation,” Dr. Chen said.
A version of this article first appeared on WebMD.com.