FDA OKs another Pfizer, Moderna COVID booster for 50 and up
PHOENIX — U.S. regulators March 28 authorized another COVID-19 booster for people age 50 and older, a step to offer extra protection for the most vulnerable in case the coronavirus rebounds.
The Food and Drug Administration’s decision opens a fourth dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to that age group at least four months after their previous booster.
Until now, the FDA had cleared fourth doses only for people 12 and older who have severely weakened immune systems. The agency said this especially fragile group also can get an additional booster, a fifth shot.
The latest expansion, regardless of people’s health, allows an extra shot to millions more Americans — and the question is whether everyone who’s eligible should rush out and get it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to weigh in.
Everyone eligible for a first booster who hasn’t gotten one yet needs to, FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. But the second booster is only for these higher-risk groups because “current evidence suggests some waning of protection” for them.
The move comes at a time of great uncertainty. COVID-19 cases have dropped to low levels after the winter surge of the super-contagious omicron variant. Two vaccine doses plus a booster still provide strong protection against severe disease and death, CDC data show.
But an omicron sibling is causing a worrisome jump in infections in Europe — and spreading in the U.S. — even as vaccination has stalled. About two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated, and half of those eligible for a first booster haven’t gotten one.