The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved boosters for those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines while authorising anyone eligible for an extra dose to receive a brand different from that used in their original inoculation.
The approval, announced on Wednesday, is a big step towards the administration of President Joe Biden’s goal of vastly widening its booster campaign. Last month, the US began administering extra doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 65 and older, those at risk of severe disease and those who are exposed to the virus through their work.
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Approval for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will now move to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which will consult an expert panel on Thursday before finalising official recommendations for who should get boosters and when.
“Today the currently available data suggest waning immunity in some populations of fully vaccinated people,” acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock told reporters. “The availability of these authorised boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.”
The Moderna booster decision essentially matches the FDA’s ruling that high-risk groups are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, which is made with the same technology.
The agency, meanwhile, recommended that everyone who had gotten the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get a booster since it has consistently shown lower protection than its two-shot rivals.
The FDA’s approval of using any of the authorised vaccines for the booster, regardless of which vaccination people got first, is expected to speed the government campaign, particularly in nursing homes and other institutional settings where residents have received different shots over time.
In August, the Biden administration announced plans for across-the-board boosters for all US adults, but outside experts have repeatedly argued against such a sweeping effort.
The World Health Organization has called on wealthy countries to address global inequities before the widespread administration of boosters.
Meanwhile, the US government has continued to emphasise that its priority is to inoculate about 66 million eligible people in the country who remain unvaccinated.