The providers plan to administer the first booster shots to newly eligible Americans starting tomorrow.
“These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19. Evidence shows that the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the more than 400 million doses of vaccine already given, ”CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Thursday.
The CDC’s decision follows an hour-long meeting of the agency’s outside vaccine advisers, who ultimately voted unanimously to recommend the boosters.
In accordance with emergency use clearances issued by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday, the panel voted in favor of a second dose of any COVID-19 vaccine cleared by the FDA for the 15 million adults with the dose of Johnson & Johnson at least two months after they were first vaccinated.
As with Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, “high risk” adults who were first vaccinated with Moderna doses at least six months ago may also receive a third injection of any of the vaccines, the committee said. This includes people aged 65 and over, as well as those vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19 or who are frequently exposed to the virus depending on where they live or work.
Hoping to add flexibility to the recall program, the CDC said it would allow Americans to switch to a different brand for their recall than the brand they were first vaccinated with. Early data suggests that so-called “heterologous” or “mix-and-match” stimulation – a common practice with other injections – is safe and effective.
Several panelists had advocated a more “permissive” approach, after CDC officials said they were initially weighing whether to recommend that Americans stick to their original brand of vaccine in most jurisdictions. situations.
“As a clinician in the field, I see pretty savvy people, able to read the medical literature, and they seem to be arguing for some of the more robust approaches to booster vaccines. And for the sake of fairness, I would really like to allow for more flexibility, ”said Dr. Camille Kotton, one of ACIP’s voting members.
This could resolve some of the logistical issues facing the deployment of the booster dose. Some people don’t have a record of the doses they first received, health officials said, may have trouble finding their mark or may have concerns about side effects or allergic reactions. .
These include myocarditis and pericarditis, rare side effects associated with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines that often require hospitalization but usually go away with standard treatment. Data presented to the committee on Thursday suggests the risk may be highest in young men receiving Moderna injections.
Some Johnson & Johnson beneficiaries are also hoping that switching to a Moderna or Pfizer booster might offer more protection, although the evidence to support this approach remains limited.
National and local health authorities, along with pharmacies and other vaccinators, have been preparing for weeks to add Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recalls to their schedules, in addition to new formulations for Pfizer’s vaccine that may soon be cleared for release. a lower dose for younger children.
A spokesperson for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores said pharmacies were “closely coordinated” with the CDC and were ready to start booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, according to the agency’s recommendations. In a statement, Walgreens said they were ready to begin booster shots at their stores “starting tomorrow,” with online programming “available as of Saturday.”
As with the additional doses of Pfizer, the new boosters can be administered from the same vials that vaccinators already have in stock for the first round of vaccinations. Up to 20 booster doses can now be taken from Moderna vials, the FDA said on Wednesday, because the company’s booster is half the size of the first two doses.
After some CDC advisers expressed concerns over Moderna’s decision to use one vial for two different dose sizes, the company defended the decision citing the need to roll out booster shots in “the context of the pandemic ”. The company was still considering changes to the packaging of the vaccine, Moderna’s Dr Jacqueline Miller said, especially with new doses for young children on the horizon.
“It’s going to be a challenge. This requires that existing inventory and waste reporting systems be kept up to date. What about inventory-based planning systems? They also need to be changed, ”Policy Officer Dr Litjen Tan. and head of partnerships for the Immunization Action Coalition, told CBS News earlier this month.
Tan said many vaccinators are already experienced with large multidose vials for routine injections, but rarely with different doses, which could increase the risk of errors or contamination.
“We had a presentation of the influenza vaccine at a time when the one-season vaccine was approved for pediatric use at half the dose, and it took some thought and preparation there. We didn’t have any issues at that time, but that being said, it’s not common, ”Tan said.