The Oklahoman

CDC panel OKs Moderna, J&J and mixing boosters

- Elizabeth Weise

Mix-and-match COVID-19 booster shots could be available by the weekend after a crucial federal committee unanimousl­y voted to allow them Thursday.

Letting Americans choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot would increase protection against the disease that is killing on average 1,093 Americans a day, the committee said.

It also voted to recommend a second shot for all 15 millions Americans who received the one-dose J&J vaccine, as well as a booster dose for certain groups of people who got the Moderna vaccine.

The vote by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunizati­on Practices is the second-to-last step in the booster authorizat­ion process.

Once CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signs off on the recommenda­tion, which is expected to happen quickly, Moderna and J&J boosters can begin to be offered in the United States.

The committee made its decisions based on data presented by the vaccine makers and a National Institutes of Health study. It also considered the endorsemen­t of similar recommenda­tions Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administra­tion.

A booster of the Moderna vaccine was recommende­d at least six months after people get their second shot, but only for those 65 and older or 18 and older if they’re at high risk for severe COVID-19, or their jobs or living conditions put them at high risk of exposure to the virus.

A second dose of the J&J vaccine was recommende­d for everyone who received their first dose at least two months ago.

A booster dose is not required for a person to be considered fully immunized. People who received two doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or one dose of J&J, are fully immunized.

All booster doses will be free, just as all COVID-19 vaccines are, Reddy said.

FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for people 65 and older or at high risk for COVID-19 because of health problems, jobs or living conditions on Sept. 22.

The CDC committee votes came after more than six hours of presentati­ons and discussion­s.

Moderna presented informatio­n showing the efficacy of the vaccine after a two-dose series fell over time and most sharply after the rise of the delta coronaviru­s variant. This resulted in more breakthrou­gh cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated people.

Testing of a booster dose of Modera at least six months after their second shot showed a 16- to 22-fold increase in protection against the delta variant, Moderna told the committee.

The Moderna booster dose is 50 micrograms, one-half the initial 100 micrograms of the initial two doses. Moderna used the smaller dose because it restored the level of immunity as well as a larger dose.

“Our goal is to always use the dose that is most optimally effective for boosting,” said Dr. Jacqueline Miller, Moderna’s senior vice president for infectious diseases.

More than 189 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, about 57% of the total population. Hospitaliz­ation rates among unvaccinat­ed Americans are between nine and 15 times higher than among vaccinated people, according to the CDC.

Almost 6% of fully vaccinated Americans have already received a COVID-19 booster shot, according to CDC data.

“Our goal is to always use the dose that is most optimally effective for boosting.”

Dr. Jacqueline Miller

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