In recent months, booster shots have become a hot topic. Since August, several studies have shown decreased effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines over time, though effectiveness against hospitalization remains high. Booster shots are intended to increase the effectiveness of the vaccines after they begin to wane.
“In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for select groups,” according to Yale Medicine.
On Oct. 20, the FDA amended the Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA) for COVID-19 vaccines to allow for expanded use of single-dose COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. The amendments approve “the use of each of the available COVID-19 vaccines as a heterologous (or “mix and match”) booster dose in eligible individuals following completion of primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine.” Additionally, these amendments approve the use of the Moderna (which, unlike the Pfizer booster shot, is half the dose of the initial two shots) and Johnson and Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine booster shots.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots are approved for use “at least 6 months after completion of the primary series to individuals: 65 years of age and older, 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19, 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.”
The J&J booster shot, however, is approved for “use of a single booster dose at least 2 months after completion of the single-dose primary regimen to individuals 18 years of age and older.”
The shorter waiting period following the initial dose and the far more liberal restrictions on who can get a booster shot reflect the FDA’s “recommendation that everyone who’d gotten the single-shot J&J vaccine get a booster since it has consistently shown lower protection than its two-shot rivals. And several independent FDA advisers who backed the booster decision suggested J&J’s vaccine should have originally been designed to require two doses,” according to the Associated Press (AP) News.
Additionally, “the interchangeability of the shots is expected to speed the booster campaign, particularly in nursing homes and other institutional settings where residents have received different shots over time.”
“Health authorities stress that the priority still is getting first shots to about 65 million eligible Americans who remain unvaccinated,” however, according to the AP.