If you got your COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year, you’re likely antsy about getting that booster dose to ensure you have optimal protection from the coronavirus. But right now, only a select group of people who got one vaccine—Pfizer—can do so. It’s been just two and a half weeks since Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky, MD, endorsed the recommendation to offer the Pfizer booster to certain groups of people in the U.S., but for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients, it probably feels like a lifetime. The development left those who were vaccinated with the other two shots wondering when it will be their turn. And now, Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House’s chief medical adviser, has given us a clear timeline for authorization of Moderna and Johnson.& Johnson boosters. Read on to find out exactly when you can roll up your sleeves for another dose of those two vaccines.
Fauci says Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients will be able to get boosters in early November.
In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN’s The Situation Room on Oct. 11, Fauci gave a clear timeline for when those who got the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a booster.
“The advisory committee to the FDA is going to look at that data this week, the 14 and the 15th of October, and then the following week, that kind of regulatory decision will be handed over to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices [ACIP] at the CDC, and sometime in the first couple of days of November we very likely will get a recommendation from the CDC,” Fauci said.
“In the next few days to a week, we’re going to be hearing more about it,” he added, referring also to the possibility of mixing different vaccines. “Both Moderna and J&J are going to be presenting the data to the FDA for their advisory committee to look at.”
But other experts say the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters could be available a bit sooner.
When it came to Pfizer’s booster, the FDA’s advisory committee met on Sept. 17 to review the pharmaceutical company’s data, then the ACIP met on Sept. 23 to provide its recommendation to the CDC, and the following day, Walensky endorsed it, while also adding two other categories of people who could get a Pfizer booster.
If the path is the same for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, the CDC director could endorse those boosters by Oct. 22 and Oct. 23. “Oct. 14, the FDA advisory committee will start considering Moderna boosters,” Allison Arwady, MD, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, told local news outlet NBC 5 Chicago. “A week or two after that, we should have guidance for people who got Moderna as their first series and similarly J&J probably. … Before the end of October, I would expect that we would have guidance.”
It remains to be seen who will be eligible for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.
The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters will likely follow the same timeline recommendations as the Pfizer booster, which is that recipients must wait at least six months after their last dose in order to get a booster. In clinical trials, Moderna tested its boosters on recipients after six months, at which point antibodies “had waned significantly,” the company said in a statement once the booster data was submitted to the FDA.
Johnson & Johnson found in its clinical trials that when given at six months, its booster increased antibodies 12-fold. “A booster of our COVID-19 vaccine increases levels of protection for those who have received our single-shot vaccine to 94 percent,” Mathai Mammen, MD, global head of research and development for Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement. “We look forward to our discussions with the FDA and other health authorities to support their decisions regarding boosters.”
But while that timeline is clear, the same groups of people may not necessarily be eligible for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters as those who can get the Pfizer booster. U.S. adults 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities, people under 65 with underlying conditions, and people in high-risk occupational and institutional settings (like healthcare workers and prison inmates) are all eligible for the Pfizer booster, but that vaccine’s protection wanes more significantly. A September study from the CDC found that the Moderna vaccine was still 93 percent effective at preventing hospitalization during the Delta surge among adults who weren’t immunocompromised, while Pfizer’s vaccine dropped to 88 percent and Johnson & Johnson to 71 percent.
The Moderna booster will likely be a half-dose.
The Pfizer booster contains the same amount of vaccine as the first two doses in the series, but the dosage of the Moderna booster may be a bit lower. When Moderna submitted its data to the FDA seeking authorization for its booster shot on Sept. 1, it recommended a half-dose of 50 µg. “Our submission is supported by data generated with the 50 µg dose of our COVID-19 vaccine, which shows robust antibody responses against the Delta variant,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement at the time.
The reason behind this, Arwady told NBC 5 Chicago, is that “the Moderna initial series was a little bit higher actually than Pfizer and the booster may be a little bit lower” (0.5 mL per shot of Moderna compared to 0.3 mL per Pfizer dose).
“Moderna’s booster is going to be one-half the strength of the regular Moderna vaccine,” Kevin Most, DO, chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine’s Central DuPage Hospital, told WGN 720 in Chicago. “So now it’s going to be a little bit more of a logistic headache for all the pharmacies, physicians’ offices, and immediate care [clinics].”
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