Immunocompromised Individuals and People 50+ Can Now Get a Second Booster

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Verywell Health / Photo Illustration by Ellen Lindner / Unsplash

Key Takeaways

  • Federal health agencies greenlit a second booster of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people 50 and older or people who are immunocompromised.
  • Data from Israel suggests that the fourth dose can help reduce COVID-19 death rates in people 60 and older.
  • Officials are unsure whether and when the fourth dose can be extended to younger age groups as federal funding is running low.

Following an FDA authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended a second mRNA booster for people 50 and older and those who are immunocompromised. The eligible groups can get either a Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 booster at least fourth months after their first booster dose.

The decision comes as BA.2 becomes the dominant variant in the United States, accounting for around 55% of all new cases, according to data from the CDC.

Pfizer had requested an FDA authorization for people 65 and older while Moderna requested for people 18 and older. But the FDA opted to set age 50 as the benchmark for the fourth dose.

“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from COVID-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these higher-risk individuals.”

Marks cited data from Israel that showed a 78% reduction in death rates in people 60 and above who received a second booster after at least four months from the initial booster shot.

The CDC and FDA will continue to evaluate the need of a fourth dose for all Americans. However, White House officials are unsure whether and when the fourth dose can be extended to younger age groups as federal funding is running low.

Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said at press conference last week that the administration does not have enough vaccine supply to provide all Americans second boosters or potential variant-specific vaccines should they be necessary.

“If the science shows that fourth doses are needed for the general population later this year, we will not have the supply necessary to ensure shots are available, free, and easy to access for all Americans,” Zients said.

Due to a lack of funding from Congress, the White House will soon discontinue some of its coronavirus response efforts, including its reimbursement program for testing and treatment of uninsured patients, according to Xavier Becerra, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Uninsured Program will stop accepting new claims for vaccination services around the first week of April. The administration has also canceled some new orders of monoclonal antibody treatments, which are projected to run out in May.

What This Means For You

If you’re 50 and older or immunocompromised, you’re now eligible for a second booster of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine fourth months after your initial booster.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

1 Source
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Variant proportions.