Getty Images / Jo Imperio
It seems that just about every day there's an update regarding COVID-19 vaccines. And while the jabs remain the best sources of protection against the virus, it seems that some folks are going to need an extra dose in the near future.
This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it would grant emergency use authorization of a booster shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people who are 65 years of age and older as well as those who are at high risk of severe infection (e.g. if you have certain underlying medical conditions). The FDA has also approved boosters for folks whose job "puts them at high risk of serious complications of COVID-19," according to a press release from the organization. (Related: Johnson & Johnson Says a Booster of Its COVID-19 Vaccine Offers Stronger Protection)
"After considering the totality of the available scientific evidence and the deliberations of our advisory committee of independent, external experts, the FDA amended the EUA [emergency use authorization] for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to allow for a booster dose in certain populations such as health care workers, teachers, and daycare staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons, among others," said Janet Woodcock, M.D., acting commissioner of the FDA, in a statement Wednesday. "This pandemic is dynamic and evolving, with new data about vaccine safety and effectiveness becoming available every day. As we learn more about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, including the use of a booster dose, we will continue to evaluate the rapidly changing science and keep the public informed." (Related: Everything You Need to Know About President Biden's COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate)
The FDA has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses to be administered at least six months after folks have received their second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only coronavirus vaccine that has been fully approved by the FDA. Currently, the two-dose Moderna vaccine, as well as the single-shot Johnson & Johnson, have been granted EUA, which is when the FDA allows the usage of unapproved medical products during public health emergencies (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) to treat or prevent life-threatening illnesses. (Related: Is It Safe to Get a COVID-19 Booster and a Flu Shot at the Same Time?)
Although COVID-19 boosters have been a topic of conversation for some time, an FDA Advisory Panel announced last week that third doses will only be recommended to certain folks at the moment, notably those who are at high risk and over the age of 65. As for the general population, Michael G. Kurilla, M.D., a committee member and official at the National Institute of Health recently told The New York Times that "it's unclear that everyone needs to be boosted, other than a subset of the population that clearly would be at high risk for serious disease."
Back in August, the FDA authorized COVID-19 booster shots (the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech) for immunocompromised people. Those with weakened immune systems (about three percent of the U.S. population) can be "more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The organization recognizes immunocompromised folks as recipients of organ transplants, those undergoing cancer treatments, people with HIV/Aids, and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system. (Related: Sarah Hyland Revealed That She Just Received her COVID-19 Booster Shot)
Currently, over 182 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to recent CDC data. And with folks likely heading back to their offices and commuting in the near future, taking as much precaution IRL (including social distancing and masking up) remain imperative in the fight against the coronavirus.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.