A federal advisory committee supports booster shots of all three COVID-19 vaccines being used in the U.S. for Americans who need them.

So far, the Food and Drug Administration only has authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for certain people who may be at high risk for COVID-19 infection or severe disease.

However, the FDA is still reviewing the vaccines and the booster shots for some people will likely be soon available.

On Thursday, the FDA’s advisory panel – called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee – voted unanimously to support boosters of the Moderna vaccines for a limited population. That same committee voted unanimously to support a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday.

Over the next few days, FDA’s acting commissar will sign off on that committee’s decision. The same data will be reviewed by another independent panel of experts on Oct. 20-21. They will make recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If she chooses to support boosters, they will be available to all.

About 15 million adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated with the one-dose J&J vaccine, compared with 103 million who’ve gotten Pfizer and 69 million who’ve gotten Moderna, both of which have a two-dose regimen. Up to 8.8 million Americans have already received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Biden’s administration stated that it purchased enough COVID-19 vaccine doses in advance to ensure continued free delivery to Americans.

Here’s who is and is expected to be eligible for booster doses of all three vaccines.

Pfizer-BioNTech booster

The FDA authorized booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 65 and older and thoseHigh-risk workers who work in areas that are exposed to COVID-19.

The authorization also covers individuals aged 18 or older who may be at risk of severe COVID-19. However, this only applies to those at least six months after their last dose.

High-risk jobs include “health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others,” said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock.

Pfizer booster shots are available to more than 20 million Americans. 40 million additional Americans will be eligible once their first shot is six months old.

CVS, Walgreens and Walgreens both announced that booster doses of Pfizer vaccine were being offered to all who qualify shortly after authorisation.  However, the pharmacy chains said they weren’t taking extra steps to police eligibility to “remove barriers and improve access to potentially life-saving vaccines,” leaving room for dishonesty.

Moderna booster 

VRBPAC voted Thursday to support booster shots of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for the same group as those who received the Pfizer vaccine: people 65 and up, and  younger adults with certain medical problems or jobs that put them at increased risk for infection.

Members of the committee suggested these workers could be health-care workers or grocery clerks, and other people who might come in contact with COVID-19 as they do their job. 

A booster shot is a dose of half the vaccine that was already administered. According to company data, the dose that was lower in effectiveness had less side effects.

Patients who have been diagnosed with immunocompromised due to a transplant or chemotherapy can receive a third dose of Moderna vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson booster

The federal advisory panel said the J&J vaccine should be considered a two-dose vaccine rather than the one dose that received initial authorization.

VRBPAC felt the 15 million Americans who got a single dose of the “one and done” J&J vaccine would be substantially better protected with a second one. The committee voted unanimously to support a “booster” of the J&J shot at least two months after the initial dose was given.

Adding a second dose two- to six-months after the initial J&J shot would provide the same effectiveness as the mRNA vaccines without their fading protection, said Dr. Penny Heaton, head of the vaccines global therapeutic area for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Johnson & Johnson company that developed the vaccine.

Like Moderna, the committee’s decision on the J&J second dose will need to be verified by a different advisory panel as well as top federal officials before it’s available to the public.

A single dose of the J&J vaccine will still be considered fully vaccinated, the CDC said. 

Is it possible to mix and match vaccines 

As of Friday, CDC recommended that individuals receive more doses the same vaccine as they had the first time. The FDA committee on Friday discussed a National Institutes of Health study on mixing and matching vaccine boosters, but said more data was needed before it could suggest to allow people to get a booster shot different from their original vaccine.

Source: USAToday.com

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