The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved an optional second round of COVID-19 enhancer shots for anyone 50 and older who wants extra vaccine protection.
Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots comes as the new omicron sub-variant continues to spread rapidly overseas and raises concerns that it could lead to a similar increase in infections in U.S. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in the U.S. in recent weeks.
The new sub-variant, BA.2, is more transmissible than the original omicron variant, which caused a record number of cases in the US in January. However, it no longer appears to be serious in terms of illness.
A second booster shot is not recommended at this time for anyone over 50.
While Pfizer-BioNTech has sought permission for a second booster shot, specifically for those 65 and older, Pfizer-BioNTech said its third dose of vaccine is starting to lose its effectiveness in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and serious illness after three to six months. Data published last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention similarly found that booster shots lose a lot of effectiveness after four months.
Pfizer also cited Israeli studies that found that coronavirus infections were twice as low, and serious diseases four times lower, among people who received a second booster dose, compared to someone who received only one booster shot.
Moderna told the FDA that authorizing these shots would provide “flexibility” to the CDC and medical providers, as it means that health officials can provide additional protection on an individual basis, “including for those at greater risk of COVID. -19 due to age or comorbidities. ”
Several countries, including Israel, Chile, Brazil and Sweden, have already started administering a fourth vaccine shot to some residents.