Western States panel sides with regulators, recommends booster shot for 12 and older

(The Center Square) – A panel of medical experts from several western states endorsed new recommendations from federal regulators on Thursday, paving the way for booster shots to be distributed to people ages 12 and older on the West Coast.

The approval, issued by a Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup panel, aligns with federal recommendations to expand eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot to individuals ages 12 and older in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Washington. The workgroup also aligned with federal recommendations to allow a third shot for immunocompromised children aged 5 and 11.

The panel's recommendation came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday expanded booster shot eligibility to individuals between 12 to 15 years and recommended all adolescents ages 12 to 17 get a booster shot five months after receiving the initial Pfizer series.

"It's simple, vaccines save lives. Everyone 12 and older should keep their immunity strong and protect themselves and their families against COVID-19, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant, by getting a booster dose," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Thursday. "The state has ample vaccine supply, so don't wait – get your booster today."

The recommendation from the CDC and western states panel comes as COVID-19 cases rise across the United States, including on the West Coast. As of Friday, California was averaging 43,697 cases per day, equal to 124.5 cases per 100,000, according to data tracking from the state. The testing positivity rate remains on the rise as well, reaching 21.7% on Friday.

Cases are also on the rise in other western states, including Nevada. As of Thursday, Nevada was averaging 3,207 cases per day, a 214% rise over the last two weeks, according to data tracking from the New York Times.

"Vaccines and boosters are a key line of defense in the fight against COVID-19, particularly with the Omicron surge we are experiencing," Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. "I know this is welcome news to families across Nevada who are eager to get their children boosted. The State has increased access to vaccines and I encourage families to take advantage of this opportunity now."

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup was formed in October 2020 after Washington, Oregon, and Nevada joined California's COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup. The panel, made up of experts on immunizations and public health, independently reviews federal recommendations regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

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