The Atlantic Daily: The Booster-Shot Rollout Is a Mess

Plus: why David Lynch’s 1984 film, Dune, is worth a rewatch

Today, a CDC advisory committee weighed in on who should get Pfizer booster shots and made a pretty nuanced recommendation:

  • Americans 65 and older, yes;

  • people who live in nursing homes, yes;

  • people 50 to 64 with an underlying medical condition, yes;

  • people 18 to 49 with an underlying medical condition, it depends.

The panel declined to recommend extra shots for health-care workers or people in other high-risk occupations, even though the FDA authorized those doses yesterday.

The booster rollout is, in short, getting really messy. The FDA’s prior ruling—that Pfizer boosters are safe and effective for high-risk Americans and those over age 65—still stands, medically speaking.

The CDC, by contrast, is tasked with the more practical job of deciding who actually gets an extra dose. If today’s recommendation is approved by Director Rochelle Walensky, the two agencies’ policies won’t neatly align.

“This creates an enormous amount of confusion,” my colleague Katherine J. Wu told me over the phone. “If I am a high-risk worker, but I don’t have comorbidities, what the hell do I do? … You can get [a booster] by FDA standards right now. But the CDC doesn’t recommend it. And that puts people in a really tough situation.”

That being said, we try to answer three practical questions below.

I definitely qualify. What’s next? When can I expect my shot?

We’re still waiting on final CDC sign-off. But things could move quickly from there. “It’s not like it was when the vaccines were first rolling out,” Katie explained. “The pharmacies already have these in stock.”

I’m in a qualifying group, but didn’t originally get the Pfizer vaccine. Where’s my booster?

First of all, “don’t panic,” my colleague Rachel Gutman advises: Your initial doses will still help protect you, and you can continue to take additional precautions.

But “Pfizer came in with its data first,” Katie told me. “We don’t have the information needed to make the decision about Moderna. And maybe more importantly, Johnson & Johnson.” J&J announced promising results for its booster-shot trial earlier this week, but the data still need to be evaluated by federal regulators.

I’m not eligible. Should I go out and get another shot anyway?

You could, and plenty of “booster bandits” have. That said, there’s a practical case for saving that shot for later.

“If you’re already vaccinated and you’re not eligible for a shot, getting a booster probably isn’t going to do very much for your immunity,” Rachel explains.

A white sign on a black gate says that the National Zoo is closed due to a government shutdown. In the background what appears to be an inflatable panda bear sits on the path in the empty zoo.

A scene from the 2019 government shutdown (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) A top U.S. diplomat to Haiti resigned, citing America’s “inhumane” treatment of migrants from that country. (2) The White House warned federal agencies to prepare for a government shutdown. (3) At least one person is dead and more than a dozen are injured after a grocery-store shooting in Tennessee.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation of the sci-fi novel Dune is worth rewatching before a highly anticipated new one is released this fall, our critic David Sims argues.

A break from the news:

“If you feel like shit, someone’s making a dollar,” one therapist says. Our staff writer Hannah Giorgis considers the immense pressure Black women face to fit a specific body type.