The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has expanded the emergency use authorization of the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines to allow adults 50 and older; to get a second booster as early as four months after their first booster dose of any Covid-19 vaccine.
The move extends the availability of additional boosters to healthy older adults. The FDA had previously allowed additional shots for anyone 12 or older; who was severely immune-deficient. This group of people can now receive a three-dose primary series; and two boosters for a total of five doses.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed suit; saying it is updating its vaccine pages to reflect the FDA’s expanded eligibility.
COVID-19 cases in the United States have dropped sharply since a record surge in January; but have seen a small uptick over the past week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While this EUA (emergency use authorization) will help address a current need for some; we’re working diligently to develop an updated vaccine that not only protects against current COVID-19 strains; but also provides more durable responses,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.
Pfizer and BioNTech originally asked for the next booster doses to be authorized for people 65 and older in a submission citing data collected in Israel where a second booster is already authorized for many people over age 18. The companies did not explain why the age range had been expanded.
Scientists and officials have debated whether young, healthy people will need a fourth shot.
A study of Israeli healthcare workers suggested that the fourth dose added little additional protection in the age group.
Biden administration officials have said that the US government currently has enough doses of the vaccines; to meet the demand for another round of booster shots in older Americans; even as funding for the US pandemic response has all but run out.
They say that unless Congress approves more spending; the government will not be likely to be able to be pay for future inoculations; if they are needed, particularly if the vaccines need to be redesigned to target new variants.