SALT LAKE CITY — A third COVID-19 booster shot could be on the way to Utah after the FDA advisory panel endorsed emergency approval for Pfizer in certain demographics.
The same Utahns who qualified first for the COVID-19 vaccine are the same group the FDA advisory board feels comfortable giving a third Pfizer vaccine: Adults aged 65 and older, people at high risk for severe illness and exposure at work.
After an extensive discussion Friday, the board shot down Pfizer’s request to approve the booster for anyone aged 16 and over.
Intermountain Health’s Medical Director of Preventative Medicine Tamara Sheffield listened in on the nine-hour meeting.
"We’ve got this explosion of cases and hospitalizations and we’ve got to do something to control it. It was very clear the third dose is not the strategy to reduce the spread of the pandemic,” said Sheffield.
Getting unvaccinated people to roll up their sleeves for an initial dose is still the best strategy, Sheffield said.
However, health experts believe a third dose will lower the risk of ‘breakthrough cases’ among the most at-risk groups
“We are seeing the breakthrough among older individuals whose immune systems don’t work as well as younger people and people who might be exposed a lot more to the virus due to their jobs like healthcare workers or chronic conditions that put them at higher risk of severe disease,” Sheffield said.
Utah’s hospitals, clinics and health departments are awaiting the authorization and may roll out Pfizer boosters by the end of the month.
The recommendation for emergency authorization would allow a booster shot six months after the second dose, but it is far from a done deal.
The FDA will have the final word on if the third booster can be used. The CDC will meet next week to determine who can get one and when.