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A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

Driving the news: Friday's votes followed an intense day of discussion by the independent experts on the panel. Many questioned whether the available data justified recommending boosters for the general population.

  • “It’s unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease,” Michael Kurilla, an infectious disease specialist at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, said during the meeting.

The big picture: The White House's booster plan has been the subject of much debate since it was unveiled in August, with some frustrated that the administration announced the plan before boosters went through the regulatory process.

  • Top government health officials earlier this month urged the White House to scale back its booster plan, saying regulators need more time to collect and review necessary data for a third dose.
  • The White House has already paused plans to offer boosters for individuals who received the Moderna vaccine, saying it will wait for more data.
  • The World Health Organization, meanwhile, has called on countries to forgo booster shots through at least the end of the year.

Pfizer said the data presented during Friday's meeting "underscore our belief that boosters will be a critical tool in the ongoing effort to control the spread of this virus."

  • “We thank the committee for their thoughtful review of the data and will work with the FDA following today’s meeting to address the committee’s questions, as we continue to believe in the benefits of a booster dose for a broader population," said Kathrin Jansen, senior vice president and head of Vaccine Research & Development at Pfizer.

What to watch: A CDC advisory committee will meet to discuss boosters next week, "after which the CDC will make their final recommendation," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at a briefing on Friday.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Pfizer's statement.

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Pfizer says COVID vaccine over 90% effective in kids

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said their COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at protecting children between the ages of 5 and 11 from symptomatic infections from the virus, according to a study posted online by the FDA Friday.

Why it matters: Pfizer is seeking an emergency use authorization to vaccinate children — one of the last groups of Americans still largely ineligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."