Oct. 21, 2021 -- A panel of experts that advises the CDC has weighed in on who should get boosters after their Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Both recommendations were unanimous, 15–0.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) says everyone over age 18 who are at least 2 months past their Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster, a recommendation that affects an estimated 13 million Americans. That booster can be any of the available COVID-19 vaccines.
If CDC Director Rochelle Walneksy, MD, signs off on the panel’s recommendations – and she is expected to do so – boosters could become available immediately.
Those eligible for a booster at least 6 months after their last the Moderna shot are the same groups who can get a Pfizer booster. They are:
- Anyone over age 65.
- Those over age 18 with an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe COVID-19.
- Those over age 18 who may be at higher risk of a COVID-19 infection because they live or work in a risky setting.
There are an estimated 47 million people who have gotten Pfizer vaccines and 39 million people vaccinated with Moderna who are now eligible for a booster dose, according to data presented by the CDC.
Before voting, some committee members expressed discomfort in broadly recommending boosters, stressing that there is very little evidence supporting the need for boosters in people under age 50. They worried that being so permissive with boosters could send the wrong message to Americans and undermine confidence in the vaccines.
The evidence to date shows that all the vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. continue to protect people well against severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalization and death. But breakthrough infections are on the rise, especially for people who initially received the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine.
In the end, however, they felt it was more important to be permissive in allowing boosters so that individuals and their doctors could be free to make their own decisions.
The vote will come with a detailed suite of clinical considerations compiled with the FDA and CDC to help people weigh the risks and benefits of getting a booster.