U.S. to clear additional booster shot against COVID-19

Josh Wingrove and Ella Ceron
Bloomberg News (TNS)
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at Union Station in Los Angeles on Jan. 7, 2022. The FDA is poised to clear a fourth dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for adults age 50 and older, a person familiar with the matter said. (Frederic J. Brown/ AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is poised to clear a fourth dose of the mRNA coronavirus vaccine for adults age 50 and older, looking to shore up protections for more vulnerable groups, a person familiar with the matter said.

The authorization could come as early as next week and, for most Americans, it would mean a second booster shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Currently, only immunocompromised people are eligible in the U.S. for the additional dose.

Unlike with previous authorizations, the FDA is expected to stop short of a full recommendation, meaning the option would be open for people who want the shot. The development was reported earlier by the New York Times.

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The move comes as the Biden administration is warning of waning supplies in its fight against the virus and is calling on Congress to authorize new funding. The U.S. does not have enough vaccines to give everyone a fourth dose of mRNA vaccine, officials have said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would have to make a final ruling on any recommendation by the FDA.

Representatives for the FDA and CDC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Vaccinations in the U.S. are at their lowest point since the start of the immunization drive in December 2020, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

At least 559 million doses have been administered in the U.S. since rollout began. Over 80% of people in the U.S. who are eligible have received at least one dose of vaccine, with almost 70% of those eligible are defined by the CDC as fully vaccinated. Trials are still underway for children under 5, not now eligible for vaccination.

A recent report by the CDC found that protection against COVID-19 waned slightly in the months following a third dose of the vaccine. The booster shot resulted in a 91% decrease in hospitalizations for people who received the booster two months prior to getting sick, and 78% for those who received the booster four or five months prior to contracting the virus.