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CDC advisers back booster for certain Americans, Indiana expert weighs in on growing questions

Millions of Americans can soon sign up for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

INDIANAPOLIS — Millions of Americans can soon sign up for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine six months after they are fully vaccinated.

Based on the latest recommendations from CDC advisers, not everyone will qualify. 

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky still needs to sign off on the panel’s recommendations, which she is likely to do.

They say booster shots should be offered to people 65 and older or those 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.

It is a different recommendation than the FDA’s original guidance last week that said the booster should go to those 18 and older with a high risk of illness. 

CDC advisers are not currently recommending the booster for people exposed to COVID-19 at their jobs, like healthcare workers, teachers and grocery employees.  

“In the near future, we may see it rolling out for that group as well, but as of right now they are saying, ‘Let’s stick to these people. Let’s really make sure that these people who are most at risk’ get the shot, then let’s continue to follow the data and see where we go from there,” said Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauch, a professor and director of the Public Health Program at the University of Indianapolis.  

U.S. regulators will decide at a later date on boosters for people who have received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. This booster is only for those who received Pfizer. Experts still don’t recommend you mix and match vaccines. The confusion has resulted in unauthorized booster shots.  

“You should get the same mRNA vaccine that you received in your first and second dose,” Dr. Hancher-Rauch said.  

RELATED: CDC advisers backing COVID boosters for older, vulnerable Americans

Even after Thursday’s vote, there is still a lot of debate in the medical community around who really needs boosters and whether it will help slow the pandemic.  

“When you think about who’s at risk and who we are most concerned about, it’s those groups that have been most at risk all along,” Dr. Hancher-Rauch said. 

RELATED: 182.5 million Americans fully vaccinated

In a CDC analysis, experts found the older population benefited more from an extra dose than younger Americans, saying the booster shot would prevent 8,000 COVID cases and nearly 2,100 hospitalizations over six months. 

While experts sift through the data, they are asking everyone to be patient and wait their turn.  

If you don’t qualify for a booster right now, Dr. Hancher-Rauch said your vaccine will still protect you, but it’s best to be safe and wear a mask while in public to protect those around you who can’t get the shot.  

She said the best way to slow the virus is to get more Americans vaccinated. Right now, only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, just 55% of the population. 

That’s a much greater threat to us than worrying about whether everyone needs to get a booster,” Dr. Hancher-Rauch said. 

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