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COVID-19 booster shots 'not the way out of the pandemic,' Maine CDC director says as federal agencies weigh data

Dr. Nirav Shah said immunocompromised people should consider getting the third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said much more information on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will soon be available after federal agencies' committees meet to weigh data from the shots' manufacturers.

Right now, no vaccine booster has received approval for all people, but an FDA advisory panel endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech version of an extra vaccine dose only for those who are 65 or older or run a high risk of severe disease. 

"Boosters are not a medical emergency. They are important. But they are not the pathway out of the pandemic at this point," Dr. Shah said during Wednesday's media briefing.

According to the U.S. CDC, "the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot beginning in the fall, with individuals being eligible starting eight months after they received their second dose of an mRNA vaccine (either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna)."

This is subject to authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). FDA is conducting an independent evaluation to determine the safety and effectiveness of a booster dose of the mRNA vaccines. ACIP will decide whether to issue a booster dose recommendation based on a thorough review of the evidence.

Dr. Shah said the COVID-19 vaccine remains effective against the virus, including the delta variant.

"Whether vaccines remain effective as a resounding yes. Boosters, based on the data we've seen so far, far more in the category of like the flu shot, something you should do as we get into the season," Shah said.

Experts are looking at all available data to understand how well the vaccines are working, including how new variants, like Delta, affect vaccine effectiveness, according to the CDC. If FDA authorizes and ACIP recommends it, the goal is for people to start receiving a COVID-19 booster shot this fall.

Watch the full interview with Dr. Shah and Dr. Mills below.