September 22, 2021

FDA Recommends Pfizer Booster Approval For Nurses, High Risk Groups

FDA Recommends Pfizer Booster Approval For Nurses, High Risk Groups

On Friday, September 17, an FDA advisory panel––the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee––released two important recommendations: 

  • Individuals aged 65 and older—as well as high-risk and immunocompromised individuals—should receive a COVID-19 Pfizer booster vaccine (now known as the COMIRNATY booster) about six months following vaccine completion. According to the panel, healthcare workers are classified as high-risk because of exposure to the coronavirus, as are other workers aged 16+ who are regularly exposed.
  • The general public, ages 16 and up, should not receive a booster dose at this time.

The panel voted unanimously to approve the boosters for those at high risk and passed a vote of 16-2 against broad use of the booster in people over the age of 16 at this time.

What Does the Vote Mean?

First things first, the vote was from an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — that means that it’s a special panel dedicated to offering advice on what the FDA should do. The FDA is not required to follow the panel’s recommendations, although generally, they do. A final decision on the booster shots is expected to be released from the FDA later this week. 

As National Public Radio (NPR) reports, the votes were based on data that was presented to the panel that showed that there is waning protection from the Pfizer vaccine over time. Although the vaccine series is effective against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, there is evidence that protection drops somewhat, which is why a booster may be recommended. 

The specific information presented to the advisory panel was an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed that the Pfizer vaccine’s protection against hospitalization dropped to 77%. This decrease was approximately 120 days post-vaccine series completion.

Pfizer also submitted data, including laboratory work and a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that demonstrated that in 1,137,804 fully vaccinated people in Israel who received a third booster vaccine, the rate of infection was significantly lower than in fully vaccinated people who had not received a booster. 

Will Nurses Be Required to Receive a COVID-19 Booster?

With some debate still swirling over nurses receiving even their initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, some healthcare workers may now be wondering: will nurses be required to receive a COVID-19 booster shot too? 

So far the answer is: we aren’t sure just yet.

 Although many healthcare systems across the country have implemented COVID-19 vaccination policies for employees, has not learned of any healthcare facility requiring booster shots for healthcare workers yet. 

However, according to a survey of 4,500 nurses by the American Nurses Association (ANA), nurses do support getting the booster if necessary. “Nurses' willingness to take them, if necessary, underscores their support for taking all recommended actions to protect themselves and those they encounter from the risk of serious illness and possible death from the virus,” the ANA states.

Part of the recommendations that healthcare workers receive a booster stems from the stark fact that the healthcare system can’t afford to have any more nurses or healthcare staff get even mildly ill from COVID-19.

“The [healthcare] systems are so overstretched now that we can’t even have healthcare workers get mild infections or be positive, because by staying home, that [creates] even more of a risk of failure of the whole system,”  Dr. Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology and pediatrics at the University of Iowa and member of the advisory committee told Healthline.  

How to Get a COVID Booster Shot

Until the FDA makes a formal decision on the booster shots, eligibility is kind of murky territory; as the Wall Street Journal reports, right now, it’s currently up to your doctor to decide if you qualify based on your own health conditions and risk. 

Currently, there is no real plan for a massive booster roll-out, although states and pharmacy retailers like CVS are preparing for a surge in demand due to both the booster, testing over the winter, and seasonal vaccinations for the flu. 

Based on the FDA’s panel recommendations and what is sure to be full FDA approval later this week, if you’re a nurse and want the booster, you should have no problem getting one. 

Nurses React To The News

And some nurses have already received their third booster shots, taking to social media to share their decisions to #getboosted. For instance, Felicia Leigh Haines, a CPPCU RN, posted a proud picture of her and two co-workers showing off their #fauciouchies: 


And nurse Jenny shared her own #boostershot on Instagram, writing, “I am SUPER thankful to have received my third dose and be further protected. I’m still breastfeeding Penny so I’m also super thankful she will receive some of these antibodies as well….Think of your kids, your parents, your coworkers and neighbors and friends…all the people who rely on you, who count on you to be there tomorrow. Delta doesn’t care who you voted for, or about whether you have the right to wear a mask or get a vaccine….it’s just a virus that aims to get you sick/contagious enough to spread it to others.”


Other healthcare workers are also joining in and sharing their reasons for getting the COVID booster: 



How Nurses Can Get a Booster

If you’re a nurse or healthcare worker interested in getting a booster COVID-19 vaccine, you should speak to your employer to see options that are available to employees. Some hospitals, such as NYU Langone, are offering booster vaccinations by appointment and are requiring an order from your doctor to receive one. 

Another good place to turn is your local public health department. In Michigan, for instance, walk-in booster vaccine clinics have already been started, even in small, rural areas. 

At this time, the CDC’s vaccine booster webpage has not been updated with information on the best way to receive your booster shot, so if you are wanting a booster, the best place to start would be with your own doctor, employer, or public health department. 

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