After a critical federal committee unanimously approved them on Thursday, mix-and-match COVID-19 boost shots may be made available as soon as the weekend.

Letting Americans choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot would increase protection against the disease that is killing on average 1,093 Americans a day, the committee said. 

It also voted to recommend a second shot for all 15 millions Americans who received the one-dose J&J vaccine, as well as a booster dose for certain groups of people who got the Moderna vaccine.  

The vote by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is the second-to-last step in the booster authorization process.

Once CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off on the recommendation, which is expected to happen quickly, Moderna and J&J boosters can begin to be offered in the United States.

Is it necessary to get another shot? Are you able to mix and match vaccines with other shots? COVID booster questions, answered.

This committee took its final decisionsbased on data presented by the vaccine makers and a National Institutes of Health study. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the same recommendations.

A booster of the Moderna vaccine was recommended at least six months after people get their second shot, but only for those 65 and older or 18 and older if they’re at high risk for severe COVID-19, or their jobs or living conditions put them at high risk of exposure to the virus. 

A second dose of the J&J vaccine was recommended for everyone who received their first dose at least two months ago.

A booster dose is not required for a person to be considered fully immunized. People who received two doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or one dose of J&J, are fully immunized.

Reddy stated that all booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines and other COVID-19 vaccines will be available for free.

FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for people 65 and older or at high risk for COVID-19 because of health problems, jobs or living conditions on Sept. 22.

The CDC committee votes came after more than six hours of presentations and discussions. 

Moderna presented information showing the efficacy of the vaccine after a two-dose series fell over time and most sharply after the rise of the delta coronavirus variant. These changes led to more COVID-19 cases in fully vaccinated individuals.

Moderna reported that Modera’s booster dose showed protection against the delta variant by Moderna testing it at least six to eight months later.

Moderna’s booster dose of Moderna is 50 micrograms. This dose corresponds to one-half of the original 100 micrograms from the first two doses. Moderna used the smaller dose because it restored the level of immunity as well as a larger dose.

“Our goal is to always use the dose that is most optimally effective for boosting,” said Dr. Jacqueline Miller, Moderna’s senior vice president for infectious diseases.

Johnson & Johnson presented data showing that a single dose of its vaccine provided 74% protection against severe disease globally and 70% protection against all symptomatic disease. Trends over time showed a decline in effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19, most likely linked to coronavirus variants, said Dr. Peggy Heaton, the company’s global therapeutic area head for vaccines. 

But the CDC has reported the J&J vaccine was only 68% effective against hospitalization in most adults and was not equivalent to the protection provided by either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

Johnson & Johnson presented studies showing that in the United States, protection against all systemic disease rose to 94% after a booster dose of its vaccine at two months. According to Johnson & Johnson, there was no evidence of COVID-19 in the recipients, which makes the vaccine 100 percent effective.

A smaller pool of data showed the booster dose of the J&J vaccine at six months was even more potent that at two months. The company claimed that the booster dose resulted was a twelvefold increase in antibody levels.

The side effects reported by those who took the boosters were much less common than those who had the original dose.

Over 189 million Americans have had COVID-19 vaccinations, which is 57% of total US population. According to the CDC, hospitalization rates for Americans who have not been vaccinated are nine to 15 times more than those who were vaccinated.

According to CDC data almost 6% have had a COVID-19 booster shot. 

Source: USAToday.com

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