US authorizes second COVID booster for Americans over 50

US authorizes second COVID booster for Americans over 50

March 29 (Reuters) – U.S. health officials on Tuesday authorized a second COVID-19 booster dose of the two most widely used COVID-19 vaccines for people over 50, citing data showing a decreased immunity and risks posed by Omicron variants of the vaccine. virus.

The US Food and Drug Administration agency said the new boosters, a fourth round of injections for most recipients of the vaccine, from Pfizer Inc. (PFE.N)/BioNTech SE (22UAy.DE) and Modern Inc. (MRNA.O) vaccines must be given at least four months after the previous dose. Its goal is to offer more protection against serious illness and hospitalization.

The FDA also authorized a second booster dose of the vaccines for younger people with compromised immune systems: older than 12 for the Pfizer/BioNTech shot and older than 18 for the Moderna shot.

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supported the FDA authorization and recommended the additional injection, particularly for older people and those with underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk.

The decision to offer second boosters in the United States comes as some scientists have raised concerns about the highly contagious and recently predominant BA.2 Omicron subvariant, which has increased COVID-19 cases in other countries.

“If they were my relatives, I would send them out to do this,” senior FDA official Dr. Peter Marks said during a news conference on booster shots. “COVID-19 has had a really disproportionate adverse effect on people 65 and older and those with comorbidities.”

COVID cases in the United States have fallen sharply from a record spike in January, but have seen a small uptick over the past week, according to CDC data.

A WIDER BOOST CAMPAIGN MAY BE NEEDED

Marks said the FDA will soon weigh the benefits of authorizing another round of boosters, perhaps specifically aimed at combating new variants of concern, for a broader population after the summer.

“There may be a need for people to get an additional booster in the fall along with a more general booster campaign, if that happens, because we may need to switch to a different coverage variant,” he said.

The FDA said it analyzed data from a relatively small ongoing clinical trial in Israel to help make its decision. In addition, security data on more than 700,000 people who received a second booster in Israel revealed no new concerns, the agency said.

Scientists and officials have debated for months whether and when an additional booster shot would be needed, as they sifted through data on how long protection from vaccines and boosters would last. Read more

“It’s not clear if now is the right time for people to get a fourth dose,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

If there is a spike in cases in late fall or early winter, as is typical for respiratory viruses and influenza, an extra boost may be needed, he said. The body’s neutralizing antibodies stimulated by a given fourth booster can now wane within a few months, she said.

It’s also unclear whether young, healthy people will need a fourth injection. The study of Israeli health workers cited by the FDA suggested that the fourth dose added little additional protection in the age group.

Biden administration officials have said the US government currently has enough vaccine doses to meet demand for another round of booster shots in older Americans, even as funding for the US pandemic response They have almost sold out.

They say that unless Congress approves more spending, the government may not be able to pay for future inoculations, if they are needed, particularly if vaccines must be redesigned to target new variants.

About two-thirds of fully vaccinated Americans over age 65 and just over half of people ages 50 to 64 have received their first booster dose so far.

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Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey, Manojna Maddipatla and Leroy Leo in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; Edited by Bill Berkrot

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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