Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters get US CDC's backing

CDC chief also allowed for mix-and-matching, opening door to extra doses for millions

A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Reuters

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) backed Covid-19 booster shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, a move that will allow recipients of all three shots cleared in the US to receive a supplemental dose to bolster their immunity against the coronavirus.

Additionally, the CDC said that eligible people may choose a different booster from the vaccine they originally received, granting more flexibility to patients and doctors as the US tries to stave off another wave of infections.

The clearance by CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky came after a daylong meeting of an expert panel that advises the agency on vaccine policy.

The 15-member Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices voted unanimously to recommended both the Moderna and J&J shots.

Boosters are becoming more widely available at a crucial time when the US is still fighting the summer surge of infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant.

Health officials are keen to protect those most vulnerable to the disease as the winter months approach, bringing the added threat of a potentially harsh flu season.

Dr Walensky said in the statement announcing the booster clearance that data shows that all three Covid-19 vaccines authorised in the US are safe and all “highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalisation, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant.”

While the unvaccinated account for the vast majority of the most seriously ill in the current outbreak, breakthrough infections among the vaccinated have fueled concerns that the shots’ effectiveness wanes over time.

Moderna and J&J both presented evidence at Thursday’s meeting that their boosters restore infection-fighting power.

The CDC guidance on administration of the booster doses echoes the clearance granted to the boosters by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA authorised Moderna’s additional shot for people 65 and older along with other adults at high risk of severe Covid because of health conditions or work at least six months after their initial inoculation. The agency also cleared J&J boosters for people 18 and older who got the single-shot vaccine at least two months ago.

While the advisory panel didn’t vote on mixing and matching, many committee members voiced support for the approach.

Those who received J&J’s single dose vaccine must wait two months before taking any other booster, while those whose primary vaccination was an mRNA vaccine should wait at least six months before getting any additional shot, including J&J’s.

With Dr Walensky’s sign-off on the expert recommendations, doctors, drugstores and other sites can begin giving shots.

The recommendation for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, which was cleared by the FDA last month, is for older people and adults at high risk, including teachers, nurses and others who risk infection from contact with the public through their jobs.

The FDA also said people who have been fully immunised and meet the criteria to get a booster can receive a supplemental dose made by a different manufacturer than the maker of their original shot.

Updated: October 22nd 2021, 1:02 AM