CDC Advisors Vote for Boosters to Some Moderna, J&J Recipients

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Advisors to the CDC voted Thursday to recommend booster shots for everyone who’s had Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
The committee also recommended Moderna boosters to adults over 65. Other vulnerable adults may also be interested in getting a boost, depending on their situation.
The final decision will be made by the director of CDC, allowing for boosts to reach arms.

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Free booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are almost here.

An influential advisory committee to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just unanimously voted to recommend booster shots for some Moderna vaccine recipients and all Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.

A final OK from the CDC — which would allow booster shots into tens of millions more arms across the country — is likely hours away.

Boosters were far more heartily recommended for everyone who’s gotten J&J, whereas for Moderna, the committee emphasized that it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits of a third shot, especially for younger adults. 

How the committee voted

Thursday afternoon, the independent committee unanimously voted to recommend that a booster shot be given to:

Everyone who’s gotten J&J’s vaccine (at least 2 months after their first shot)

A unanimous vote was also taken by the committee to recommend that a booster shot be given to:

People 65 & up who’ve had Moderna (at least 6 months after their first two shots)People ages 50-64 with certain underlying medical conditions (at least 6 months after their first two shots)People who live in long term care settings like prisons and nursing homes (at least 6 months after their first two shots)

The committee endorsed boosters for other groups of people who have been vaccinated by Moderna in a milder endorsement than previous Pfizer booster recommendations. 

Moderna boosts can be provided (after 6 month) to:

People ages 18 to 64 who’ve had Moderna who live or work somewhere that puts them at increased risk of catching COVID-19 People ages 18-49 with underlying conditions

However, the doctors, nurses and other public health experts on this committee were divided about the issue. The question of whether booster vaccines for young adults who have had Moderna and Pfizer’s shots are necessary is up for discussion. 

The current definition of who is fully vaccinated won’t change, at least not for now. (Though there was some discussion about making J&J a two shot vaccine, eventually.) 

A new, flexible approach to boosters

Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Instead of insisting on the same brand of booster for everyone, the committee decided to allow doctors, pharmacists and individuals to choose which booster they want. 

After hours of data presentations by pharmaceutical companies and input from independent vaccine researchers, their decisions were made. Though not many Moderna and J&J recipients have received boosters yet, the data presented suggests that boosts are both safe, and work well to amp up the immune protections afforded by the COVID-19 vaccines.

Boosters for J&J recipients are top priority

Boosters are a higher priority for J&J recipients, since many real world studies show that the single shot vaccine is not protecting people as well from infection, hospitalization, or death, as Pfizer and Moderna’s two-shot vaccines. (Fewer than one in 10 people vaccinated in the US have had J&J.)

“It seems as if Moderna vaccination protection has longer legs,” Dr. Sarah Long of the advisory committee stated during the meeting, summarizing her takeaways. “There is a need to protect Janssen patients.” [J&J] vaccine.”

Particular advice for young men (and young women)

Apu Gomes/AFP

The advisory committee also spent a lot of time in the afternoon looking at safety data regarding vaccines. CDC representatives shared information on the rare, but heightened risk of myocarditis after mRNA vaccines in young men, and the extremely rare, but heightened risk of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia (TTS) in young women after J&J’s shot, a condition that has been fatal in a few women.

Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot, Vanderbilt University committee member, said that mix and match boosters are “priceless.” Young women who originally got a J&J vaccine might opt for an mRNA booster, while young men who got mRNA shots could decide they’d prefer to have J&J. 

She said, “We can be more thoughtful and cautious when we weigh the risks and benefits.”  

“Those who aren’t at high risk should be mindful.” 

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