Regulators are set to clear extra doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine as soon as Thursday, after states began expanding eligibility on their own.


By Noah Weiland and Sharon LaFraniere

The Food and Drug Administration is aiming to authorize booster doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for all adults as early as Thursday, a move that would expand the number of Americans eligible for additional shots by tens of millions, according to people familiar with the agency’s plans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent committee of vaccine experts has scheduled a meeting for Friday to discuss data on the booster dose’s efficacy and safety. If both the F.D.A. and the C.D.C. sign off this week, they will have acted strikingly quickly — a little more than a week after Pfizer asked for authorization of boosters for everyone 18 and older.

Under that scenario, any adult who received a second dose of the vaccine at least six months earlier would be officially eligible to get a booster as soon as this weekend. The F.D.A. is expected to rule without consulting its own expert panel, which has met frequently during the pandemic to review vaccine data and make a recommendation ahead of a regulatory decision.

The broad booster authorization has been viewed as something of a fait accompli for weeks. Some state and local officials have begun rolling out similar policies ahead of F.D.A. action — responding to persistent virus case counts, including some breakthrough cases, and the eagerness of many Americans to seek additional protection ahead of holiday gatherings.

New York City health officials on Monday encouraged all adults who want boosters to seek them out. Arkansas, CaliforniaColorado and New Mexico have also moved to expand access.

Many Americans, regardless of where they live, have taken the matter into their own hands and sought out extra doses even if they did not yet officially qualify.

The F.D.A. in September downsized an initial request from Pfizer-BioNTech’s to fully approve booster doses for all adults. Instead, it made a more limited population eligible, including those 65 and older, as well as adults with underlying medical conditions or those at risk because of their jobs.

At least 30 to 40 percent of vaccinated adults are still excluded from booster eligibility, according to some estimates.

More than 30 million people have already gotten additional shots, with the daily number often outpacing that of first shots given around the country. Booster doses were also authorized in October for everyone who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and for vulnerable groups who received Moderna’s two-dose shot.

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