WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Booster shots to bolster immunity against the coronavirus would be free and accessible, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday, one day after federal health agencies backed a booster rollout, and he pledged to get his own shot as soon as possible.
“Like your first and second shot. The booster shot is free and easily accessible,” Biden said at the White House.
Boosters will be available for people 65 and older, people at high risk of severe disease or of contracting COVID-19 through their work, and who were vaccinated six months ago with the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
Biden said 60 million people were now eligible for the third shot, while also reiterating his appeal to the more than 70 million Americans who have not gotten a single shot.
“Listen to the voices of the unvaccinated Americans who are lying in hospital beds, taking their final breaths, saying… ‘If only I got vaccinated,'” Biden said. “People are dying and will die who don’t have to die.”
Biden had called for booster shots against the novel coronavirus to begin this week for all people once they were eight months out from vaccination, pending regulators’ approval.
But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only this week cleared the way for a subset, though they did broaden the time frame for eligibility by two months.
Biden administration officials have said they would follow the science on additional vaccines and had set the week of Sept. 20 as a goal in order to prepare for more inoculations.
Regulators’ decision applies only to the Pfizer vaccine and those who received it at least six months earlier. The FDA has yet to weigh Moderna Inc’s application for boosters and Johnson & Johnson Inc. has not yet filed an application.
“We’re also looking to the time when we’re going to be able to expand the booster shots, basically across the board,” Biden said.
Health experts have cautioned people against mixing various brands of vaccine, citing the lack of data.
(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Steve Holland and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Dan Grebler)