Sep 24, 2021 - Health

Health care workers and teachers caught up in booster confusion

Teacher sits in front of classroom wearing mask and motioning hand over head. Young students in foreground mimic her.
Photo: Paul Bersebach, MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Health care workers, teachers and day care workers are stuck in the crossfire between two government agencies that can't decide whether people with jobs that put them at high risk of COVID-19 exposure should get booster shots.

The big picture: Public health officials are divided on whether booster shots are necessary or ethical, and who should get them. While they duke it out, the public is likely to become increasingly confused.

Driving the news: A CDC advisory board recommended booster shots yesterday for Pfizer recipients 65 and older and those at risk of severe infections, but not people whose occupations put them at risk of exposure.

  • That's a public clash with the FDA, which earlier this week authorized a third shot for all three groups.

But CDC director Rochelle Walensky said late Thursday that workers in high-risk jobs should also be eligible for booster shots, in a rare break with the advisory committee.

Between the lines: Whether health care workers need extra protection against the virus right now is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unanswered booster questions.

  • Health officials are only considering a third shot of Pfizer. So far, there's no new guidance for people who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson's vaccines.

What they're saying: Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research, tweeted out a timeline of shifting federal booster guidance.

  • The caption: "You'd have to work really hard to mess this up this badly and engender this much confusion."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information on CDC director Rochelle Walensky's decision.

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