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November 19, 2021

FDA authorizes COVID-19 booster shots for all adults

Anyone age 18 and older who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago will become eligible

Prevention Vaccines
COVID-19 booster shots Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman

All adults who have received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can get booster shots if they completed their initial vaccine regimens at least six months ago, according to the FDA.

All U.S. adults are eligible to receive COVID-19 booster shots if enough time has passed since they received their last doses.

People who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can get booster shots if they completed their initial vaccine regimens at least six months ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Friday. Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine already were eligible for a booster shot two months after the initial dose.   

The expanded eligibility requirements will help "provide continued protection against COVID-19, including the serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death," acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said.

A U.S. Center for Disease Control advisory committee endorsed the FDA's decision. Once CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gives her approval, boosters could become available for many Americans as early as this weekend. 

Philadelphia will begin administering boosters as soon as city health officials receive the OK from the CDC, spokesperson James Garrow said. The city has plenty of doses available. 

"Boosters are available at all of the hundreds of vaccine sites currently in operation today, so hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, pharmacies and community pop-up clinics," he said.

Philadelphia residents can find information about booster availability, including specific clinics, on the city's COVID-19 websiteDelawareMontgomery and Bucks counties each have a similar sites.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to authorize COVID-19 boosters for all adults at a press conference Monday regardless of whether Walensky has officially approved it.

If the governor ends up beating the CDC to the punch, New Jersey will become the 11th state to jump the federal government's gun following California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Kansas, Maine, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Minnesota. New York City also is already offering boosters to anyone 18 or older.

Boosters are currently available at numerous sites in South Jersey. CamdenGloucester and Burlington counties each have their own COVID-19 vaccination information sites.

The FDA's evaluation found that immune responses were boosted among 149 recipients of the Moderna booster and 200 recipients of the Pfizer booster in comparison to fully vaccinated adults who hadn't received a booster.

Additionally, the FDA has evaluated months of real-world data and concluded that the benefits of a booster outweigh the risk of heart inflammation, a rare but serious side effect of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The FDA's authorization follows months of debate about who should be eligible for a booster. 

Though President Joe Biden promised all adults a booster over the summer and the FDA has been studying this for months, many scientists and public health officials believe the data on boosters is too sparse to prove they are necessary and safe.

Previously, people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines only were eligible for booster shots if they were age 65 or older, immunocompromised, had underlying medical conditions or lived or worked in a setting that placed them at high risk of catching the coronavirus. 

Making boosters available to adults more broadly will help eliminate the significant confusion that's arisen over who is eligible for a booster, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

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