On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved COVID-19 boosters for the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines recipients. The regulatory agency also added that the extra dose did not have to be the brand they initially received.
The FDA’s decision to bolster the booster campaign comes as vaccine mandates ramp up across the country. Pfizer was the first to introduce the booster in September. The CDC will meet with medical experts this week before announcing its official recommendation for the booster rollout.
The FDA’s goal is to give more Americans access to boosters by allowing “mixing and matching” of the vaccine brands and give access to vaccinated people who experienced side effects with one brand but want to continue their COVID-19 protection.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said, “We are also taking action today to include the use of mix and match boosters to address this public health need. We will work to accrue additional data as quickly as possible to further assess the benefits and risks of the use of booster doses in additional populations and plan to update the healthcare community and public with our determination in the coming weeks.”
The updated COVID-19 booster shot guidelines for Moderna’s third shot are; the booster will be half the dose of the first two shots and can be given six months after their last dose. It is also only available for high-risk populations like seniors, people with health issues and essential workers.
According to the FDA, Johnson & Johnson’s booster (which faced controversy and was pulled from the market in April) will also be available. The brand’s single-shot vaccine allows its recipients to get the booster a minimum of two months after the initial dose.
Interim FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock spoke about the updated booster initiative, saying, “Today’s actions demonstrate our commitment to public health in proactively fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“As the pandemic continues to impact the country, science has shown that vaccination continues to be the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19, including the most serious consequences of the disease, such as hospitalization and death. The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated. The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”
Each brand’s vaccine’s booster ramp-up varies because of how each vaccine is made. The FDA reported that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has a lower effectiveness rate than the Pfizer and Moderna versions.