It can be difficult to keep up with the development of vaccine boosters against the coronavirus without a scorecard.
The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of expert advisors will vote this week on whether or not to recommend booster shots for two of the three vaccines used in the United States, those from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, to recipients of each. vaccine.
The agency has already authorized booster shots from the third, from Pfizer-BioNTech, for certain groups who initially received that vaccine, including adults 65 and older and residents of long-term care facilities. Third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are also approved for some people with weaker immune systems, who may not have received full protection from the original two doses.
All three vaccines initially offer very strong protection against infection, serious illness and death from Covid-19. The incentive for boosters comes from studies suggesting that while that protection remains strong against serious illness and death, it may wane slightly over time and cause more breakthrough infections, especially from the highly contagious Delta variety. The decline is usually most pronounced in older people and those with certain underlying medical conditions.
Here’s an overview of the booster shot situation for the three vaccines available in the United States.
What you would get: A third full dose, at least six months after your second.
Where it stands in the US: Now available to many people. The FDA has approved third-party injections for people over the age of 65, people with certain medical conditions, and some others who are at high risk because of where they work or live. (Some immunocompromised people can get a third shot a month after their second.) The agency has delayed a decision on whether or not to authorize boosters for other people.
Where it is elsewhere: Israel and some other countries are supplying Pfizer-BioNTech booster injections on a large scale.
What the science says: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive full approval in the United States (for those ages 16 and older), the first to be approved for some children (ages 12 to 15), and the first to be approved for boosters ; the available data on its safety and effectiveness are particularly robust. Some research suggests that the vaccine is slightly less effective than the Moderna vaccine over time.
What you would get: A half dose, at least six months after your second full dose.
Where it stands in the US: Pending approval as a booster for the same populations that are now eligible for a Pfizer booster. (Some immunocompromised people can receive a full third dose a month after their second.)
Where it is elsewhere: Some countries offer or plan to offer Moderna booster shots.
What the science says: Some studies suggest that the effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine decreases less than the other two vaccines available in the United States. That may mean that Moderna receivers need fewer boosters. Taking that into account, an FDA staff report took a neutral stance on Moderna’s booster-shot application.
What you need to know about Covid-19 booster shots
The FDA approved booster shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. That group includes: Pfizer recipients who are 65 years of age or older or live in long-term care facilities; adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical condition; health professionals and others whose jobs endanger them. People with weakened immune systems are eligible for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.
Regulators have not yet authorized booster shots for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but an FDA panel is scheduled to meet to weigh booster shots for adult recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines vaccines.
The CDC has said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster injection are: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and (ex-)smokers are also eligible.
The FDA approved boosters for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says that group includes: medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; factory workers; corrections employees; US Postal Service workers; employees in public transport; grocery store workers.
It is not recommended. For now, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to receive a Pfizer booster shot, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will have to wait for booster doses from those manufacturers to be approved.
Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be administered without regard to the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacies allow people to schedule a flu shot at the same time as a booster dose.
Johnson & Johnson
What you would get: A second dose, probably six months after the initial dose.
Where it stands in the US: Waiting for authorization. An FDA staff report found significant flaws in the data the company submitted with its filing, but it wasn’t clear if that would delay a decision.
Where it is elsewhere: No country has so far recommended administering second doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
What the science says: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine provides strong initial protection after one dose, although not as strong as the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, so there has been a long-standing interest in boosters for Johnson & Johnson recipients.