FDA authorizes coronavirus boosters for everyone 18 and older

All Americans age 18 and older are now eligible for a coronavirus booster following FDA and CDC authorization of the shots at least six months after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine or two months after Johnson & Johnson.

“Streamlining the eligibility criteria and making booster doses available to all individuals 18 years of age and older will also help to eliminate confusion about who may receive a booster dose and ensure booster doses are available to all who may need one,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Prior to the Friday announcement opening up booster availability, mRNA shots were only cleared for people 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions and people facing workplace exposure.

Johnson & Johnson boosters for all people age 18 and older had already been cleared.

The Moderna booster is half the size of the primary shots and the Pfizer booster is the exact same dose.

CDC recommendations allow for the mixing and matching of booster doses and patients can choose which one they receive.

An independent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel that met on Friday to discuss boosters said anyone 18 and older can choose to get another shot and stressed that people 50 and older should get one.

“It’s a stronger recommendation,” said CDC adviser Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. “I want to make sure we provide as much protection as we can.”

Studies have shown that booster shots increase protection against severe coronavirus significantly, especially under the threat of waning immunity. Elderly patients and those who are immunocompromised showed the most evidence of waning immunity, especially in the face of variants.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed the recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, making it official shortly after the Friday meeting.

“Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays,” Walensky said in a statement.

Boosters for everyone 18 and older were already available in many states including Massachusetts as governors jumped the gun ahead of public health officials as case counts have ticked up in recent weeks.

Marks said he understood why some governors got out ahead of the FDA.

“We’re going into a cold season, cases going up, high travel season, people indoors sharing good holiday times together,” he said. “They probably saw the specter of what could happen here, and were trying — well intentioned — to do something.”

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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