COVID-19 boosters: FDA meets on Moderna booster shot

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(NewsNation Now) — U.S. health officials are meeting Thursday to discuss whether an extra dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should be dispensed and, if so, who should get them and when.

A panel of independent advisers for the Food and Drug Administration are set to meet Thursday morning to debate the Moderna booster shot, but the final go-ahead is not expected for at least another week.

This is just the first step in a review process that also includes sign-off from the leadership of both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If both agencies give the go-ahead, Americans could begin getting Moderna boosters later this month.

Moderna said earlier this week that the FDA should authorize its booster doses for fully vaccinated older adults and high-risk individuals.

The company said its data supports the public health benefit of a booster dose of its vaccine to restore immune response while reducing the number of “breakthrough” infections in fully vaccinated adults.

The two initial Moderna shots contain 100 micrograms of vaccine each. But the drugmaker says 50 micrograms ought to be enough for a booster for healthy people.

A company study of 344 people gave them a 50-microgram shot six months after their second dose, and levels of virus-fighting antibodies jumped. Moderna said the booster even triggered a 42-fold rise in antibodies able to target the extra-contagious delta variant.

Last month, the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer’s vaccine for older Americans and other groups with heightened vulnerability to COVID-19. It’s part of a sweeping effort by the Biden administration to shore up protection amid the delta variant and potential waning vaccine immunity.

While the FDA and CDC ultimately scaled back use of Pfizer boosters, Biden administration officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have suggested that extra shots will eventually be recommended for most Americans.

The FDA meetings come as U.S. vaccinations have climbed back above 1 million per day on average, an increase of more than 50% over the past two weeks. The rise has been driven mainly by Pfizer boosters and employer vaccine mandates.

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56.6% of all Americans are fully inoculated and 4.7% of the total population has received a booster, according to data compiled by the CDC.

Johnson & Johnson’s booster shot is also set to be discussed by the panel this week.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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