FDA authorizes second booster of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, common questions answered

The Food and Drug Administration authorized a second booster dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for adults over the age of 50 and immunocompromised people older than 12 on Tuesday which is raising some questions. Those who meet the criteria could roll up their sleeves for another dose, as early as this week. Those groups are considered especially vulnerable which is why the additional booster was made available to them first, ideally four months after their first one.

Dr. Mark Fox at the Saint Joseph County Health Department clarified the timeline and what is being considered.

Who is eligible for an additional COVID booster shot and why?

Fox says that underlying health conditions and occupational risk both play a big role in who can get a booster and when they can get it. Hospital workers, teachers and people who live with others benefit the most from vaccine protection and should be prioritized.

Is it possible that the spread of the ba.2 omicron subvariant could expedite the process?

Fox said no.

“The typical review process would not be in response to a surge, it’d be in response to what the data shows, both internationally and here, locally,” said Fox

Should we expect to see additional COVID booster shots in the future?

According to Fox, it is likely that we’ll see more boosters, and they may even have different formulas. Currently, both booster doses are the original formula of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Fox says that may not always be the case. Similar to the annual flu shot, vaccine makers are discussing the possibility of tailoring the mRNA vaccines to combat the COVID-19 variants that are most active. This is similar to the tweaking of flu shots to combat dominant strains. It’s also possible that future COVID vaccines could be available every year.

There are a lot of people that ultimately expect that we might need an annual booster that might be combined with the flu shot, so that every fall you might get a flu and COVID booster.

How does someone benefit from two doses and two boosters?

Fox said that there is some suggestion that an additional booster can protect against infection but the main concern that boosters address is the severity of the virus.

“The data suggests that the booster will continue to provide good protection against the severe adverse outcomes of hospitalization and death, said Fox.

When can we expect authorization for boosters for people 49 and under?

It’s still hard to tell as of now. Federal health officials are expected to authorize another round of shots for those younger than 50- in the coming weeks.

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