CDC Director Rochelle Walensky Explains What You Need to Know About COVID Vaccines, Boosters, and More

EXCLUSIVE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said in an exclusive Q&A with Fox News that she “strongly” urges those who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to do so, saying vaccination “continues to be the best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from COVID-19,” while urging those eligible to receive a vaccine booster to maintain “strong protection.”

The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC have approved and recommended the use of booster shots of Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines for certain groups.

The FDA also signed “mixing and matching” of vaccines, which e.g. allows some individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to choose to receive a booster shot of either Pfizer from Moderna.

And earlier this month, the FDA and CDC approved and recommended doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children between the ages of 5 and 11 years.

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Walensky shared what you need to know:

Many vaccinated adults are in doubt about whether they should have a booster or not. Can you explain who is eligible for a booster for each shot?

Walensky: For those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, all persons 18 years of age and older who were vaccinated 2 or more months ago are eligible for a booster shot. For those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, there are several groups of people who are eligible for a booster shot 6 months or more after their primary series. These groups include those 65 and older, 18 years and older who have underlying medical conditions, 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings, and those 18 years and older who live or work in high-risk environments. If you are 6 months after your second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and are in one of these groups, you are eligible for a booster. ”

Do you recommend that those eligible get a booster shot?

Walenksy: Vaccination remains the best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities from COVID-19. I can not stress enough the importance of vaccination. I highly recommend those who are eligible to receive a booster based on CDC recommendations to get one.

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Why did your advisory panel choose not to recommend the Pfizer booster shot to many adults? What would you say to critics who would say that the panel “follows science”? Do you have full confidence in your advisory panel?

Walenksy: The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has among its members world-renowned scientists and medical professionals. As new data and science have emerged through this pandemic, this committee has met regularly to present their individual and collective expertise and thoroughly discuss scientific evidence. I am convinced of the advice and advice they give to the Agency regarding the use of approved vaccines.

CDC Director Dr.  Rochelle Walensky speaks to the press after visiting the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky speaks to the press after visiting the Hynes Convention Center FEMA Mass Vaccination Site on March 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts.
(Erin Clark-Pool / Getty Images)

The FDA and CDC have discussed “mix and match” boosters for some adults who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meaning they can now receive a Pfizer or Moderna shot. Have there been clinical trials related to this new recommendation? Have there been any side effects for patients mixing and matching vaccines?

Walensky: Some people may have a preference for the type of vaccine they originally received because they did well with their first series, while some may want another. FDA approvals and CDC recommendations allow for mixing and matching between the primary vaccine series and the booster injection. The most important aspect is to receive the strong protection that the vaccines offer.

Do you have a message for those who are still hesitant to receive COVID vaccines?

Walensky: All three COVID-19 vaccines approved in the United States are safe. They have all been shown to be extremely effective in reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death. If you have not yet been vaccinated, I strongly encourage you to consider the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and being vaccinated – not only for yourself, but also for the health and safety of your children, family and community.

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For those who are still in doubt about getting vaccinated, talk to a healthcare professional you trust – ask your own doctor, pharmacist or vaccinator in your community to get the information you need.

Will children who have received shots be required to wear masks in schools?

Walensky: Our highest priority is to ensure that children can have a safe, personal school year this year. It has been proven that masks in schools work to protect our children, to keep them and their school community safe and to keep them in school for personal learning, especially as a large number of children remain unvaccinated. As we continue to vaccinate more children and adults, schools should continue to use the preventative measures we know keep children safe, such as wearing masks in schools and indoor spaces, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, and washing hands regularly. We will continue to follow developments in science, vaccination status and the number of cases, while making recommendations to keep our schools safe.

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Are there any specific members of the Biden administration instructing the CDC on how to make and adopt COVID-19 policies?

Walensky: We are working together across the government and across the scientific and medical community to stay ahead of the virus and move forward on our path out of this pandemic – to stop the spread of infection, to keep people out. the hospital and to save as many lives as possible.

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