FDA authorizes a whole lot more boosters

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended its emergency use authorization for all COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday to allow for mix-and-match boosters for patients who initially received a different vaccine.

The federal agency also authorized booster shots for Americans who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson inoculations. The FDA had previously authorized boosters for the Pfizer vaccine.

The decision on Wednesday clears a path to allow recipients of all three vaccines to get booster shots of doses from other companies if and when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues an official recommendation.

Allowing mixed boosters is likely to smooth the messaging and logistics of the booster rollout by allowing pharmacists and doctors the flexibility to administer available shots to patients.

Who’s eligible: Moderna was granted authorization for a half dose of its vaccine as a booster, for people older than 65, adults with underlying conditions and those with jobs or living situations that put them at risk of contracting the virus at least six months after the initial series.

Johnson & Johnson’s extra dose would be available at least two months after vaccination for everyone 18 years and older. The broader eligibility for J&J’s shot is a reflection that the vaccine offers a lower level of protection than the shots from Moderna and Pfizer. Federal officials have increasingly viewed it as a two-dose vaccine, rather than the initial single dose.

What’s next: The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Thursday, and is likely to provide more specific guidance. Experts said they want the agency to emphasize that people who need a booster should try to receive the same vaccine they received for their initial series, if possible.