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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.

Go deeper

Nov 30, 2021 - Health

FDA panel backs Merck's antiviral COVID pill

The Merck Cherokee Plant in Riverside, Pa. Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

An FDA advisory panel on Tuesday voted 13-10 to endorse an antiviral pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to treat adults at high risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19, despite concerns over its effectiveness and safety.

Why it matters: Oral antiviral drugs designed to prevent or treat COVID-19 could be key pandemic-fighting tools, if proven effective, especially as new variants emerge. If authorized, the Merck drug, known as molnupiravir, would be the first treatment of its kind to be made available in the U.S.

13 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure.

Updated 22 hours ago - Health

2 federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.