The United States has seen a small spike in new COVID-19 cases over the past week, raising concerns that infections could rise again.
Regulators in the United States have authorized another COVID-19 booster shot for people 50 and older, amid concerns that coronavirus infections may start to rise again due to waning immunity to variants of the virus. Omicron.
Tuesday’s decision by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows a fourth dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to be given at least four months after the previous dose.
“Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could help increase levels of protection for these higher-risk individuals,” said Dr. Peter Marks, a senior official at the FDA, in a statement.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) later updated its recommendation in line with the FDA, saying the additional boosters were safe and would allow people to “further increase your protection.”
Cases of COVID-19 in the US have dropped dramatically from a record rise in januarybut has seen a small uptick over the past week, according to CDC data.
Until now, the FDA had approved the fourth dose only for people over the age of 12 who had severely weakened immune systems. The agency said that this especially fragile group may also receive an additional booster, a fifth injection.
Two doses of vaccine and a booster still provide strong protection against serious illness and death, CDC data shows.
The CDC also said Tuesday that, based on the new data, “adults who received a primary vaccine and a booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine at least 4 months ago can now receive a second dose. booster using a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine”.
Tuesday’s announcements come at a time of heightened uncertainty from the pandemic, as U.S. COVID-19 cases fell to low levels after the winter surge, but as a subvariant of Omicron known as BA.2 is spreading.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates have stagnated. About two-thirds of Americans are fully vaccinated, but half of those eligible for a first booster have not received one.
Scientists and officials have debated for months whether and when an additional booster shot would be needed, as they sifted through data on how long protection from vaccines and boosters would last.
“It’s not clear if now is the right time for people to get a fourth dose,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
If there is a spike in cases in the late fall or early winter, as is typical for respiratory viruses and influenza, an extra boost may be needed, Moss said. The body’s neutralizing antibodies stimulated by a given fourth booster can now wane within a few months, she added.
It’s also unclear whether young, healthy people will need a fourth injection. The study of Israeli health workers cited by the FDA suggested that the fourth dose added little additional protection in the age group.
Officials in the US President Joe Bidenhas said the government currently has enough vaccine doses to meet demand for another round of booster shots for older Americans, even as funding for the US pandemic response has nearly dried up.
They said that unless Congress approves more spending, the government likely won’t be able to pay for future inoculations, if needed, particularly if vaccines must be redesigned to target new variants.