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Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommends Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shot after six months

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup today completed its review of the federal process and has recommended a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months after their primary vaccination series for people older than 65 and people at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

The Workgroup provided its confirmation to the governors of Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada today. The Workgroup recommended the following groups of people who received the Pfizer vaccine should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine after six months:

  • People 65 and older,
  • People living in a long-term care facility, and
  • People 50-64 with underlying medical conditions.

In addition, the Workgroup recommended that the following groups of people ages 18-64 who received the Pfizer vaccine may also receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine after six months:

  • People with underlying medical conditions, and
  • People who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to occupational or institutional setting.

“Vaccines work and I am pleased that the Western State Group is taking this step in endorsing boosters for those who are most vulnerable. We need to protect Washingtonians most at risk for severe COVID illness. Providing boosters will help keep our residents safe and allow us to have an added layer of protection as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in our state. I am pleased that we are focusing on all of those at the greatest risk, including those who face inequities in our system. Together, vaccinations will get us out of the COVID pandemic,” Gov. Jay Inslee said.

The Workgroup strongly endorsed the CDC’s recognition that long-standing health and social inequities have increased the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and recommended that social determinants of vulnerability be included in the assessment of medical conditions that qualify individuals for booster doses. Because unvaccinated individuals remain at much higher risk of COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals, the Workgroup also reiterated that its members strongly support vaccination against COVID-19 for everyone 12 years of age and older.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 65 and older and those that are at higher risk for COVID-19, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices affirmed that decision on Thursday. On Thursday, the CDC also recommended people at higher risk due to occupational or institutional setting also be eligible for Pfizer booster doses. The Workgroup reviewed and affirmed the federal decisions in meetings Thursday evening and Friday morning. Recognizing that only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been authorized for booster doses, the Workgroup implored the FDA and CDC to quickly find solutions to sustain the protection of the most vulnerable individuals who have received a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine. 

The Workgroup also applauded the donation of COVID-19 vaccines to nations in need and called for an expansion of those efforts to protect the global community, save lives, and prevent the emergence of new COVID-19 variants.

Washington, Oregon and Nevada joined California’s COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in October 2020. The workgroup, made up of nationally-acclaimed scientists with expertise in immunization and public health, has concurrently and independently reviewed the FDA’s actions related to COVID-19 vaccines. It will continue to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines as they go through the federal process.

Statement from Oregon Governor Kate Brown: “COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and vaccination continues to be our path out of this pandemic. Seniors who have received the Pfizer vaccine, as well as Oregonians who have underlying health conditions, live in long-term care facilities, or who are at higher risk due to occupational or institutional setting will now be able to receive the additional layer of protection provided by a booster shot. Everyone eligible who wants a booster will get one, and I’m committed to ensuring our most vulnerable Oregonians are protected from COVID-19, including those who are at higher risk due to systemic health and social inequities. I’d like to thank Oregonians for their patience as boosters become available while our hospitals and health care workers continue to respond to the ongoing Delta surge.”

Statement from California Governor Gavin Newsom: “Vaccines are how we end this pandemic. With today’s Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommendation, California has built the infrastructure necessary to begin administering ready to administer has built the infrastructure necessary to immediately begin administering Pfizer-BioNTech boosters to eligible Californians, protect high-risk individuals and those over 65 from COVID-19. As California leads the nation in both vaccines administered and low case rates, we have the necessary infrastructure to mobilize additional vaccine distribution. Vaccines save lives. Please protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated if you are eligible for a booster or have not yet gotten vaccinated.”

Statement from Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak: “Again, I offer my thanks to my fellow Governors and the members of the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The group was able to come together quickly for a robust discussion of the recommendations related to the Pfizer vaccine that will increase protection for our vulnerable residents and work to end this pandemic. The inclusion and recognition that health disparities exist in our communities is a vital addition to the federal recommendations and I hope this independent review gives Nevadans confidence in the process. Every vaccination moves us one step closer to recovery and our State team and vaccinating providers stand ready to implement the latest guidance.”

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