New York City health officials on Monday encouraged all adults who want to receive coronavirus 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 A. 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,” said Dr. Chokshi.
“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 New York 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 Monday.
The move is part of an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus before the winter and ahead of the holiday season, when spending more time indoors amid dropping temperatures may increase exposure.
A growing body of early global research has shown that the vaccines available in the United States have remained highly protective against the disease’s worst outcomes over time.
But a number of published studies show that their protection against infection, with or without symptoms, has fallen. Public health experts say it does not mean the vaccines are not working. But the significance of waning effectiveness — and whether it suggests that all adults should be eligible for a booster — is still up for debate.
Meantime, new cases in the city have increased recently, according to a New York Times database: The average of daily cases stood at 1,074 as of Sunday, which is 32 percent higher than it was two weeks ago. Average hospitalizations have fallen 17 percent over the same time period.
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.
“Millions of people are eligible who have not yet gotten their booster shot, and we want to focus on that,” said Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, on “Fox News Sunday.” He also acknowledged that some states were seeking “broad protection” for their residents in making their own moves.
Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech requested that the Food and Drug Administration expand eligibility of their booster shot to all adults. The agency will weigh in after analyzing the data and ensuring that the booster shots are safe and effective for those not yet eligible, Dr. Murthy said.
Dr. Chokshi also advised health care providers to continue reaching out to vulnerable populations about booster shots, especially those who are 65 and older, those who have underlying medical conditions, and those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.