WASHINGTON — The U.S. government on Tuesday authorized another round of COVID-19 booster shots for people 50 and older, as well as those who are immunocompromised.
The decision to amend an earlier emergency use authorization for a second booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is meant to increase protection against severe illness from COVID-19 as the BA.2 variant grows increasingly common in the United States.
“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from COVID-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.
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“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 FDA announced that it was authorizing the booster dose Tuesday morning, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the booster dose later in the day.
Individuals older than 50 would be eligible for the second COVID-19 booster shot once they are four months out from their original booster dose.
People 12 and older who are immunocompromised would be eligible for the Pfizer booster at least four months after their most recent booster dose.
Those 18 or older and immunocompromised would be eligible for a Moderna booster dose at least four months after their most recent booster dose, according to the FDA guidelines.
The FDA said in its announcement that “emerging evidence suggests that a second booster dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine improves protection against severe COVID-19 and is not associated with new safety concerns.”
Marks used the announcement for a second booster dose for some people to encourage those who have not yet received their first booster dose to do so, saying in his statement that “an initial booster dose is critical in helping to protect all adults from the potentially severe outcomes of COVID-19.”
The CDC noted in its announcement that during the omicron surge, people who had received the booster dose “were 21-times less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who were unvaccinated, and 7-times less likely to be hospitalized.”
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