The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday authorized third doses of both the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna coronavirus vaccines for certain immunocompromised people: solid organ transplant recipients or “those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.”
But these doses will be considered part of the initial vaccination series for people who have not mounted an adequate immune response. A booster dose is something different. It helps refresh a waning immune response, or helps the body fight an evolving pathogen.
And many Americans who aren’t now eligible for an additional shot are wondering when it will be their turn.
What about boosters for everyone?
Covid-19 vaccine boosters are not currently needed for the general US population, but the administration is checking the data daily and will be ready if that changes, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Thursday.
“We’re trying to understand if there’s a decrease in protection that’s manifesting as a significant increase in breakthrough infections, particularly breakthrough hospitalizations and deaths,” Murthy told CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Murthy said the administration is looking at data from pharmaceutical companies, private health care systems and other countries, including the UK, Israel and Canada.
“We look at that data very regularly, closely. When we see the threshold met, that’s when we’ll recommend boosters for additional people,” Murthy said. “That’s an if question. It’s a when question, and the data is going to drive our decision on that.”
The US can look to Covid-19 vaccination in Israel for an idea of what may need to be considered a month or so in the future, Andy Slavitt, former White House Covid-19 adviser, said Thursday. Israel has authorized Covid-19 vaccine booster doses for adults older than 50, becoming one of the first countries in the world to make such a move.
“Israel began their vaccination process a little bit ahead of us, so I think in many respects, we’ve been looking to them — and to a certain extent, the UK — for what we can expect, as well as the people who participated in the original clinical trials of the vaccines in 2020,” Slavitt told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday. “Those three things together, generally speaking, give us a sense of what to predict for the future.”
Currently three coronavirus vaccines are authorized for emergency use in the United States — the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for people 12 and older, the two-dose Moderna vaccine and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccines for everyone 18 and older.
Some researchers and health officials suspect antibodies against coronavirus produced through the vaccines may diminish over time — possibly after a year or more — and may not protect as well against coronavirus variants that could emerge.