The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine, paving the way for millions of eligible Americans to get an additional protective vaccine dose.
Under the endorsement, individuals 65 and older and people 18 and older who live in long-term care facilities, have underlying medical conditions or work in high-risk settings are eligible for a Moderna booster dose if they finished the initial two-shot vaccine series at least six months ago. The booster shot is half of the original Moderna dose.
In addition, the endorsement recommends that the nearly 15 million people who received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 shot get a booster shot if they were vaccinated at least two months ago.
“These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Thursday. “The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given. And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant.”
The endorsement of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna booster means that now, all three vaccines in the U.S. have booster recommendations. Last month, the CDC authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for millions of Americans.
With all three boosters authorized, the CDC has endorsed “mix and match” dosing for booster shots, meaning individuals eligible for a booster dose can choose which vaccine they would like to receive.
The CDC advisory panel on Thursday did not explicitly recommend anyone get a different brand than the one they started with, but let the option open for people to choose. During Thursday’s meeting, some advisors said they would prefer that Johnson & Johnson recipients receive a different booster shot, citing data from an ongoing study that suggests getting a Pfizer or Moderna shot gives a bigger boost in antibodies, according to the Associated Press.
Available data shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines approved or authorized in the United States continue to be highly effective in reducing severe disease, hospitalization and death.
Dr. Henning Ansorg, the Santa Barbara County public health officer, told the News-Press Friday that the booster authorization will have a “significant impact” on the region’s elderly and immunocompromised population, as they are the ones most prone to a breakthrough infection after being fully vaccinated.
“Elderly people or people with multiple chronic conditions, their immune system is strained and the immune system is not as healthy or robust as a younger, healthier person,” Dr. Ansorg said. “And therefore, the elderly have also really been the ones who have breakthrough infections, and that will become less with the booster shot for sure.”
For individuals eligible for a booster shot in Santa Barbara County, the Public Health Department recommends contacting a primary care provider or booking an appointment at a pharmacy to get the booster dose. The Public Health Department will be helping to deliver shots to eligible patients who are homebound, Dr. Ansorg said.
With flu season approaching, Dr. Ansorg recommends that populations eligible for a booster shot get their flu vaccine and a booster dose at the same time. He said this is completely safe and highly recommended.