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A panel of experts that advises the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has unanimously voted to recommend boosters for the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) in a 15-0 vote recommended that everyone over age 18 who is at least 2 months past their Johnson and Johnson vaccine should get a booster, an endorsement that affects an estimated 13 million Americans. That booster can be any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
Those eligible for a booster at least 6 months after their last Moderna shot are the same groups who can get a Pfizer booster.
Anyone over age 65
Those over age 18 with an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe COVID-19
Those over age 18 who may be at higher risk of a COVID-19 infection because they live or work in a risky setting
These recommendations are in line with the US Food and Drug Administration’s Wednesday authorization of the boosters, along with the ability to mix-and-match vaccines.
The final step to complete the process to get booster vaccines into arms is for CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, to sign off on the panel’s recommendations.
There are an estimated 47 million Pfizer recipients and 39 million people vaccinated with Moderna who are now eligible for a booster dose, according to data presented by the CDC.
Before voting, some committee members expressed discomfort in broadly recommending boosters, stressing that there is very little evidence supporting the need for boosters in people under age 50. They worried that being so permissive with boosters would send the wrong message to Americans and undermine confidence in the vaccines.
The evidence to date shows that all the vaccines authorized for use in the US continue to protect people well against severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
But breakthrough infections are on the rise, especially for people who initially received the Johnson and Johnson one-dose vaccine.
In the end, however, the panel felt it was more important to be permissive in allowing boosters so that individuals and their doctors could be free to make their own decisions.
The panel recommendations come with a detailed suite of clinical considerations compiled with the FDA and CDC to help people weigh the risks and benefits of getting a booster.