Booster Update


The Biden administration’s plan to offer COVID-19 booster shots is underway. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the distribution of the Pfizer and BioNTech boosters for those over 65 years of age or at high risk due to where they work as well as medical conditions impairing their immune systems. FDA advisors have approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the official FDA decision is pending. A decision of the Moderna booster is also pending.

A six-month waiting period is recommended prior to receiving the booster, and recipients must have already received the initial doses. Studies are currently underway to determine whether the booster shots should originate from the same company that recipients’ original doses came from.

In addition to those over 65, people with transplanted organs, cancer, HIV, or are taking drugs that slow the immune system are eligible for the boosters. Those over 18 who work or live in high-risk areas are also eligible. In studies, the Pfizer booster, currently the only officially approved booster shot, has shown antibody levels to have increased more than 11 times in people over 65. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also endorsed the booster, making it available for all those eligible. 

“If you’re fully vaccinated, you’re highly protected from severe illness,” President Biden said on the topic of the boosters. “We’re doing everything we can to keep it that way, which is where the booster comes in.” The booster will combat variants that can evade the original vaccines and will help to keep antibodies in recipients’ immune systems as the effects of the original vaccines wear off.

Despite the unanimous decision of a vaccine council advising the FDA on October 14 to authorize the Moderna booster, a final decision from the FDA is pending. If the Moderna booster is approved, it will greatly increase the number of people able to get the booster, as more than 69 million people across the US received their vaccines from the company. 

The Johnson & Johnson booster is also pending, and if approved, will act as a second dose of the vaccine, giving recipients the antibody levels gained from the initial first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. 

Although not many people are eligible for the boosters yet, the rollout will help to decrease death and risk of severe illness in those most vulnerable. Once approved, the Moderna and J&J booster will allow a much bigger portion of the population to help slow the spread of COVID-19.