Access to COVID Vaccine Boosters Likely to Expand Soon

A federal advisory panel unanimously endorsed additional shots for certain Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients.

Access to COVID Vaccine Boosters Likely to Expand Soon
Photo:Carl Court (Getty Images)

It would appear that the federal government is about the expand COVID-19 vaccine booster access.

Previously, the only people in the United States who could get their hands on that additional dose were select recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. They had to be 65 years or older, work some kind of job that put them at high risk for contracting COVID (healthcare providers, grocery workers, teachers, etc.), or have a medical condition that made them susceptible to a severe case of the disease. Immunocompromized Moderna recipients were also eligible for a third shot.

On Thursday, however, a federal advisory panel within the Food and Drug Administration unanimously endorsed Moderna vaccine boosters for certain individuals, USA Today reports. And on Friday, that same committee, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (or “VARBPAC,” if you’re nasty), once again voted unanimously in favor of giving select Johnson & Johnson recipients another dose of the single-shot vaccine.

A lot of the details concerning these expansions to COVID vaccine booster access obviously still have to be worked out in the days ahead. For example, a top FDA official told the aforementioned panel that the agency might allow for Johnson & Johnson recipients to “mix and match” their shots with a Pfizer or Moderna booster, per The New York Times, but that such guidance is merely “possible” at the moment rather than certain. Regardless of the specifics, USA Today expects that the FDA will sign off on them, sending this expanded booster access to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final approval.

According to the CDC, 57% of the U.S. is fully vaccinated, and 66% have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Ten million Americans (5.4%) have received boosters at press time.

Despite the generally positive reception stateside, the Biden Administration’s pursuit of COVID booster shots, first announced in August, has been met with criticism from international public health experts, some of whom question the move amidst global vaccination disparities between rich and poor countries. “We’re planning to hand out extra life jackets to people who already have life jackets, while we’re leaving other people to drown without a single life jacket,” World Health Organization emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan said last summer.

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