FDA Panel Endorses Booster Shots for Adults Who Received Moderna, J&J vaccines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel unanimously recommended booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines for more Americans this week.  In 19-0 votes Thursday and Friday, respectively, the panel supported the authorization of both the third shot of Moderna and a second Johnson & Johnson (J&J) shot for adults 18 and over.  The decisions by the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee would bring guidelines for Moderna in line with third shots of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine, approved nearly a month ago. People who received one dose of J&J’s vaccine would be eligible for a second at least two months after their initial vaccination. 

Panel members said the boosters should prevent so-called breakthrough infections, which they said is critical for protecting healthcare institutions from becoming overwhelmed, while other members said the shots should ensure those at high risk won’t suffer from severe disease.

Dr. Paul Offit, a panel member, emphasized that most people who have received the first two doses of Moderna’s vaccine are still fairly protected and said he hopes the recommendation won’t send the “wrong message” to the public.

The decision raises questions, however, about whether J&J recipients would be better off with a boost from Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccine, as preliminary data from the National Institutes of Health that were presented Friday suggests. FDA panelists discussed a so-called mix-and-match strategy and appeared supportive of its potential benefits. But there hasn’t been a vote on a recommendation.

A CDC vaccine advisory committee is next expected to vote on the FDA’s proposals in a matter of days. If it recommends approval and the CDC endorses it, booster shots could begin immediately for eligible Americans.