Coronavirus

CDC releases data on booster side effects, pregnancy implications

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/CNN) — The CDC is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to recommend Pfizer-brand COVID-19 booster shots.

One of its advisory committees will meet at noon. Thursday’s meeting comes after the FDA authorized emergency use for people 65 and older, those at high risk of severe disease, or those whose jobs put them at risk of infection, including health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons.

A former FDA commissioner thinks the age group could soon expand.

“I suspect what’s going to happen is we’ll continue to collect data on this cohort, 65 and over and other people who are made eligible, and eventually, the agency may walk down the authorization to younger age cohorts, depending on what they learn from the data set here in the United States,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNN.

The lengthy CDC data slideshow is available to the general public. One of the major finds relates to side effects of the third dose. The CDC says it tracked 20,000 people with a booster, and found no major safety concerns. It also found similar or even slightly milder side effects than the second dose, although this data isn’t conclusive for the general population. Less people saw fever, headache, and chills, for example.

(Provided Photo/CDC)

Some members of CDC’s Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices warned of vaccine switching during the meeting Wednesday, according to USA Today. They’re concerned if the FDA and CDC approve the Pfizer booster, people will line up for it even though they had the Johnson & Johnson or Moderna shot. They say these vaccines have not been tested in combination and you’re discouraged from “vaccine switching.” The CDC has already discouraged combining shots.

The panel also heard about studies of the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women.

“It has been incredibly reassuring to date,” Dr. Grace Lee, a professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and chair of ACIP, told the meeting.

So far, there’s no evidence that getting vaccinated during pregnancy raises the risk of miscarriage or birth defects, several experts told the meeting. Yet just 30% of pregnant women in the US have been vaccinated against coronavirus — even as COVID-19 is killing more pregnant women than ever before, the advisers heard.

And pregnant people have a higher risk than most of severe disease if they catch coronavirus, Dr. Dana Meaney Delman, the CDC’s lead on maternal immunization, told the meeting.

“We now see increased numbers of pregnant people admitted to the ICU in July and August,” Dr. Meaney Delman told the meeting. The trend has continued into September, she said. “The deaths reported in August is the highest number of deaths reported in any month since the start of the pandemic,” she added. About 97% of the pregnant people treated in the hospital for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated, she said.

“I want to speak directly to the public,” Dr. Meaney Delman said. “We know that pregnant people with COVID-19 can become very sick. Some will die, and many will experience pregnancy and neonatal complications.”

“We know that because of COVID some children will grow up without their mothers. We know that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. If you are pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, please get vaccinated,” she said.

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