The US Food and Drug Administration approved Wednesday the use of booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. With this latest approval, the two companies along with Pfizer will now make their extra doses of their COVID vaccines available to the public.
In addition, the FDA also allowed the mixing and matching of vaccine brands. This means Americans can get a different brand as booster shots from the one they received as their initial doses.
FDA Says Vaccines Help Avoid Hospitalization and Death
Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock issued a statement lauding the approval of additional brands for booster shots.
“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,” Woodcock added.
The clearance comes after the agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee last week recommended booster shots using either vaccine.
The panel okayed the use of Moderna boosters for at-risk adults and the elderly. Meanwhile, they also approved the use of J&J booster shots for those 18 years old and above who got the same brand as an initial dose.
Up Next: CDC Review and Approval
The approval now brings the matter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its vaccine advisory committee. The CDC will need to review the applications on their own.
Once CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off, the government can freely distribute the boosters’ shots to the public.
Once approved, the government hopes to make booster shots available to the 15 million Americans who took a J&J vaccine. The boosters can also supplement 69 million Americans who received a Moderna vaccine.
In addition, qualified Americans can also mix and match the vaccines. A National Institute of Health study reported last week that combining vaccines did increase antibody levels. In the study, Pfizer’s and Moderna’s boosters appeared to work best.
Despite FDA OK, Booster Shots Remain Highly Controversial
Not everybody is on board the booster shot train. Many people worldwide remain hesitant in subjecting themselves to COVID-19 vaccines. Adding a booster shot to the original dose might make them more resistant to the idea.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization continues to tell the US and other wealthy nations to hold off distributing boosters. Many countries remain lacking in available vaccines. In addition, some scientists remain skeptical about the need for booster shots.
Within the committee that approved the booster shots, disagreements remained. Some members said that the extra doses should breakthrough infections.
This allows medical centers some breathing room from being deluged with cases. Other committee members said that boosters can help high-risk patients won’t suffer severe effects.
Then again, some members questioned if younger people will need boosters. Some studies show the initial doses are keeping them protected as is.
J&J Booster Shots Might Need More Data
In the case of Johnson & Johnson, some FDA advisers are saying that the company might consider a two-dose vaccine program instead of just one. In this case, maybe the decision on Johnson & Johnson can be postponed pending further review.
“Is there an option of saying it’s a little early? There are a number of issues that are still outstanding,” said Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University.
Watch the ABC News video reporting that the FDA authorizes booster shots for Moderna, J&J vaccines:
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