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Booster Shots Are Expected to Start Going in Arms Today

CDC, Walensky gave final approval Thursday night
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 20, 2021 5:25 PM CDT
Updated Oct 22, 2021 12:11 AM CDT
FDA Authorizes Moderna, J&J Booster Shots
This March 3, 2021 photo shows a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Bay Shore, NY.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) Update: An advisory panel unanimously recommended to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday that coronavirus vaccine booster shots be approved. Tens of millions of people would be eligible for the doses, which the FDA backed the day before, the Washington Post reports. (There's an explainer on eligibility here.) The panel also backed mixing and matching brands of vaccine. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky then endorsed the decision Thursday night, CNBC reports. Americans who are newly eligible for boosters due to this decision are expected to start receiving the shots Friday, CBS News reports. Our original story from Wednesday follows:

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More big news on COVID vaccines: The Food and Drug Administration has authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, along with the "mixing and matching" of booster doses. The Wednesday decision clears the way for a major expansion of the booster shot campaign as winter approaches, Politico reports. The FDA said seniors and anybody else at high risk from COVID-19 can receive a half-shot Moderna booster six months after their second Moderna shot, while anybody who received the single-shot J&J vaccine can get a booster two months after the shot, reports the AP. A CDC panel is expected to provide more details Thursday on who should get boosters.

The FDA said company data shows a half-shot of the Moderna vaccine is all that is needed to boost immunity. Studies have shown, however, that the J&J vaccine received by around 15 million Americans is less effective than the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, and the latest FDA guidance might "dampen interest" in the J&J shot, the New York Times reports. Those who received it will be allowed to get Moderna or Pfizer boosters, which appear to be more effective than receiving a second dose of the J&J vaccine, according to a government study of different booster combinations. The FDA approved Pfizer boosters last month and it said Wednesday that eligible people can get any brand for the booster, whichever shot they received first.

"The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated,” FDA acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement, per the AP. "The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease." Authorities stress, however, that the top priority is giving first shots to around 65 million unvaccinated Americans. (Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the J&J vaccine probably should have been two shots all along.)

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