New York City tells health providers to give Covid-19 booster shots to all adults who want them

The move is part of an effort to slow the spread of the virus before winter and ahead of the holiday season. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - New York City health officials on Monday (Nov 15) encouraged all adults who want to receive Covid-19 vaccine boosters to seek them out, and asked health providers not to turn them away, a move that comes as federal regulators consider expanding the eligibility pool for Pfizer-BioNTech's booster.

Anyone who is 18 or older and seeking a booster shot in New York City should not be turned away, said Dr Dave Chokshi, the city's health commissioner, provided it has been at least six months since their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months since they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

"Clinicians should allow adult patients to determine their own risk of exposure based on their individual circumstances," Dr Chokshi said.

Federal regulators currently allow booster shots for people who are 65 and older, as well as adults who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions, or work or live in high-risk settings.

Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expand the eligibility of their booster to all adults.

"For qualifying for a booster, if you're over 18, one of the specific criteria is being at higher risk and I view all New Yorkers, because of the density of our city, of being at higher risk," said Dr Mitchell Katz, the head of the city's public hospitals.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Dr Chokshi encouraged New Yorkers and health providers to interpret the current federal guidelines more loosely to allow more adults to get the booster now. More than 630,000 New Yorkers have already received a booster shot, Dr Chokshi said on Monday.

The move is part of an effort to slow the spread of the virus before winter and ahead of the holiday season, when spending more time indoors amid dropping temperatures may increase exposure.

In New York City, new cases have increased recently, according to a New York Times database. The average of daily cases stood at 1,074 as at Sunday, which is 32 per cent higher than it was two weeks ago. Average hospitalisations have fallen 17 per cent over the same time period.

The city's encouragement comes after California, Colorado and New Mexico broadened access to boosters.

On Monday afternoon, New York Governor Kathy Hochul echoed city leaders' pleas.

"I am strongly encouraging all New Yorkers who live or work in a high-risk setting to get the booster," she said in a statement. "I received the booster, and believe no one who feels they are at risk should be turned away from getting a Covid-19 booster shot."

If federal regulators sign off on Pfizer and BioNTech's request, it would make official what health authorities say they already see happening frequently - that many people appear to be getting boosters whether or not they are technically eligible.

In mid-August, President Joe Biden announced plans to make boosters available to all adults, but the beginning of the campaign was delayed after regulators insisted they needed more time to review data.

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