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Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Driving the news: But in an unusual move, CDC director Rochelle Walensky late Thursday overruled part of the advisory committee's decision and said that workers in high-risk jobs should also be eligible for booster shots.

Why it matters: The approval was a near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups.

  • An FDA panel had also approved boosters for people ages 18 to 64 "whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure" puts them at high risk for contracting the virus. The CDC panel, however, voted down this recommendation.

The big picture: The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices panel was tasked with determining who should get a third dose, such as which jobs qualify as high risk, per the New York Times.

What they're saying: "Like you, I am approaching this decision with an interest in doing what is right for public health," CDC director Rochelle Walensky told the panel ahead of deliberations, per the Washington Post.

  • "Collectively, we want to do what is right for the millions of Americans over the age of 65 or in long-term care facilities who are at high risk for severe complications of COVID-19," she added.

President Biden in a speech Friday encouraged those eligible to get their booster shot as soon as possible, though he stressed that ineligible Americans who have been vaccinated are still protected against the virus.

  • More broadly, he said unvaccinated Americans need to get their first doses to help curb the pandemic.

State of play: The White House had hoped to begin administering boosters to many Pfizer recipients, including young Americans, on Sept. 20.

  • This week, the FDA advisory panel voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new information throughout.

Go deeper

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

Updated data shows Merck antiviral COVID pill less effective

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Merck said Friday updated data from a study on its experimental COVID-19 pill showed the drug is less effective than initially reported.

Driving the news: The drugmaker said molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 by about 30%, based on a study of more than 1,400 adults. Last month, the company said the study showed about 50% efficacy, based on data from 775 patients.

Nov 26, 2021 - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID-19 strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

Updated Nov 27, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

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