Nov 22, 2021 - Health

Experts criticize CDC's language on COVID vaccine boosters

Screenshot: @CDCgov (Twitter)

While public health experts largely cheered the expansion of U.S. COVID booster recommendations to all adults, the language they used raised some eyebrows.

Driving the news: CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Friday accepted a key advisory committee's recommendation that adults "may" get a booster dose. Those at higher risk for poor COVID outcomes have been told they "should" get another shot.

Why it matters: Some public health experts say that frames boosters as a "luxury" for the general population, rather than a necessity, and could be confusing.

What they're saying: "I can tell you that clinicians notice that language and it matters a lot when it comes to what clinicians are recommending to their patients," Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, told Axios.

  • "My concern is that, with the messaging so muddled, the booster dose has somehow been framed as a luxury, as something that would be nice to have but it doesn't really matter if you get it. That is not the case," Wen said.
  • "I don't understand the 'should/may' split. That just confuses, everyone over 18 should get the booster, otherwise we won’t get back to normal," tweeted Peter Hotez, a vaccine researcher at the Baylor College of Medicine.

By the numbers: About 34.5 million Americans have gotten boosters, up from around 31 million a few days ago, CDC data shows. About 19% of adults and 40% of adults older than 65 have gotten a booster

The other side: "The mandate of ACIP is to determine individual risk/benefit," responded Walid Gellad, a health policy professor at the University of Pittsburgh in defense of the advisory committee.

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