The Food and Drug Administration has expanded emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines. The decision OKs a second booster shot for all adults over 50 and younger groups of immunocompromised Americans.
The news shows how the rise of the BA.2 Omicron sub-variant of COVID-19 is changing the government’s pandemic response.
As Politico reports:
The agency also authorized a second Pfizer-BioNTech booster for immunocompromised children older than 12 and a second Moderna booster for immunocompromised adults over 18 years old.
“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from Covid-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these higher-risk individuals.”
The developments come as the Biden administration reportedly worries about a spike in cases and the government considers preemptive measures to keep vulnerable populations as healthy as possible.
CNBC has more on the decision-making process:
Health experts disagree on whether a fourth vaccine dose is needed right now, though the debate is nuanced. There is broader agreement that the elderly or people with compromised immune systems may benefit from additional protection. Another booster shot for young, healthy adults is more controversial, as they are less susceptible to severe illness from COVID.
Dr. Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said some scientists believe the only purpose of the shots is to keep people out of the hospital. However, Hotez said vaccine policy should also seek to prevent infection and long COVID. The effectiveness of the third dose against hospitalization from Omicron has also declined over time, he said.