Millions of Americans who got the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines have had to watch those who received the Pfizer vaccine roll up their sleeves for a booster shot, wondering when they will get the same chance at extra protection.
This Thursday and Friday, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will tackle that pressing question.
The panel’s deliberations will be the first step taken in deciding whether extra doses of the two vaccines should be given. Once the FDA advisers make their recommendation, the agency itself will make a decision on whether to authorize boosters for those shots. If the FDA approves the extra doses, a panel convened next week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend more specifics on who should get them.
As a final measure, the CDC panel’s decision has to be approved by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As simple and straightforward as that process may sound, documents released by the FDA on Tuesday indicate that these decisions may not be easy ones.
What needs to be considered before an approval
What are the trickiest questions? When the FDA’s panel meets this week to review whether to recommend booster shots of the Moderna and J&J vaccines, experts will discuss whether a third Moderna shot should contain just half the original dose, as well as the best timing for a second shot of the single-dose J&J vaccine, the Associated Press reports. The panel will also look into the safety and effectiveness of mixing and matching different brands of vaccines, something regulators have not endorsed so far.
Beyond the question of the waning efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, some experts say there is a need to “harmonize” the country’s booster strategy.
How efficient is Moderna’s booster shot?
“We’re in this very complicated situation right now: People are going into pharmacies or places where vaccines are available and saying, ‘I want my third dose of Moderna, or I want my second dose of J.&J.,” Dr. H. Cody Meissner, an infectious disease expert at Tufts Medical Center who serves on the FDA advisory panel, tells The New York Times. “I don’t think anyone has much doubt that we will need a