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FDA advisory panel endorses Moderna booster shots for older, high-risk adults

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Posted at 10:13 AM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 15:37:44-04

A key independent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has endorsed booster shots of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for certain groups of Americans.

The advisers to the FDA voted Thursday to recommend a lower-dose booster shot for seniors and other high-risk groups, similar to how they endorsed boosters for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine a few weeks ago.

Before the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) made its endorsement, it met Thursday to discuss the benefits and risks of recommending booster shots for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.

According to ABC News, now that the panel has voted to recommend booster shots for Moderna, the matter will now head to the FDA as a whole.

If the FDA then issues a formal recommendation, the question will be posed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which already has meetings scheduled to discuss Moderna boosters on Oct. 20 and Johnson & Johnson boosters on Oct. 21. Finally, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky will need to issue a final recommendation for full approval.

ABC News estimates the earliest the booster shots could be approved for emergency use would be Oct. 22.

On Friday, the panel is scheduled to discuss the potential for booster shots of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The New York Times reported that the VRBPAC was more likely to recommend Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters, as it has a slightly lower efficacy rate. Data has also shown that those who received the Moderna vaccine have been less susceptible to severe cases of COVID-19 several months after a final dose compared to other vaccines.

In remarks from the White House on Thursday, Biden noted that whatever the FDA and CDC recommend in terms of booster shots, their decisions "will be made based on science."

The VRBPAC on Friday will also weigh a new report from the National Institutes for Health, which indicates that mixing and matching different types of vaccines and booster doses still provided a strong antibody response.

"These data suggest that if a vaccine is approved or authorized as a booster, an immune response will be generated regardless of the primary COVID-19 vaccination regimen," wrote the researchers.

That study has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The FDA and CDC have already approved booster shots for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 65 and older, for people with underlying medical conditions and for people who work essential jobs. The FDA says those Americans should seek out a Pfizer booster six months after their second dose.