WASHINGTON — The morning after health officials approved the first round of booster shots to prevent coronavirus infections, President Joe Biden said a third dose of the vaccine will provide the "highest level of protection to date."
"We have the tools to beat COVID-19 if we come together as a country and use the tools that we have," he said at the White House.
A panel of advisers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday approved Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for elderly Americans and others with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.
The panel rejected a proposal to extend boosters to people at risk because of their jobs, such as health care and grocery store employees. However, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, reversed that decision and approved shots for such workers.
"I believe we can best serve the nation's public health needs by providing booster doses for the elderly, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying medical conditions, and for adults at high risk of disease from occupational and institutional exposures to COVID-19," Walensky said in a statement.
People become eligible for a third shot six months after their second. Biden said he'll be getting his own booster shot soon.
"It's hard to acknowledge that I'm over 65," joked Biden, who is 78.
Asked about Americans who are receiving boosters before they're eligible, Biden said people should "wait your turn."
He suggested that regulators could eventually expand the number of people who can get a third dose.
Even as some Americans are eager for boosters, Biden is still struggling to get others to get their first shot. He recently expanded vaccine requirements in hopes of pressuring more people to get inoculated.
According to federal statistics, 75% of eligible Americans have received at least one dose, and 64% are considered fully vaccinated.
People without protection from COVID-19 can "cause an awful lot of damage," Biden said.
"The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, overrunning emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack or a cancer operation needed to get the lifesaving care because the places they would get that care are crowded, they are unavailable," he said.
In coming months, regulators could approve Pfizer's vaccine for children as young as 5 years old.©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.