FDA vaccine panel recommends ‘harmonizing’ primary COVID doses and boosters
The vaccine advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday voted to recommend matching the composition of primary COVID-19 vaccines doses and booster doses, which would make all vaccines administered consist of the updated bivalent dose.
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) was asked on Thursday to consider making all COVID-19 immunizations match in composition, which in this specific case would mean phasing out the original coronavirus vaccine and only administering the bivalent shot.
The bivalent mRNA shot contains components of both the original COVID-19 ancestral strain, as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants. The booster was authorized for use in September.
Under the current FDA authorization, the bivalent boosters are available to people as young as six months. The shot can be administered at least two months following a primary series vaccination or a previous monovalent booster shot.
All 21 voting VRBPAC members present at the meeting voted in favor of making this recommendation. While the FDA is not required to abide by the committee’s recommendations, the agency usually follows the panel’s vote.
Archana Chatterjee, VRBPAC member and dean of the Chicago Medical School, endorsed the recommendation as a way of reducing confusion people may have regarding different vaccine formulations that are currently available.
“Speaking with colleagues, friends, family — questions I’m answering from the community. There’s so much confusion about these different formulations that I think anything we can do to ease up on that confusion and simplify things is going to be a good thing,” Chatterjee said. “Having vaccines is not sufficient. We need to have them be used.”
Explaining her decision to vote yes on the recommendation, fellow committee member Hayley Gans, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, said she felt it was important to move “towards the strains that are circulating.”
While this recommendation, if adopted, would mean phasing out the original COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, some members of the committee noted that the ancestral vaccine has been shown to still offer protection against symptomatic infections.
Amanda Cohn, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Birth Defects and Infant Disorders, noted that implementing primary series vaccinations with the bivalent doses would likely take some time and advised that people not hold off on getting vaccinated in order to get the updated shots as their first rounds of immunization.
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