A panel of independent medical experts on Thursday unanimously recommended Moderna booster shots for many of those who had received the company’s coronavirus vaccine, paving the way to sharply expand the number of people eligible for an additional shot in the United States.
The advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration voted 19-0 in favor of emergency authorization of a half-dose booster at least six months after the second dose. Those eligible for the extra shot would include people over 65 and other adults considered at high risk — the same groups now eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster.
The FDA, which typically follows the panel’s advice, should rule within days.
The recommendation comes as the nation is seeing a decline in coronavirus cases but still faces nearly 90,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths per day. The Biden administration has cast booster shots as an additional tool in the battle against the pandemic while acknowledging that controlling the disease’s spread depends on vaccinating tens of millions of Americans for the first time.
More than 7 million people in the United States have already obtained booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and more than 1 million have received third doses of Moderna’s, even though only those with immune deficiencies are officially eligible.
On Friday, the same expert committee will meet to discuss and vote on whether the roughly 15 million people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should also be eligible for booster doses. Its members are also supposed to discuss a new federal study that suggests those Americans might be better off getting a booster dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
If the FDA quickly authorizes Moderna booster doses, and if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signs off after a meeting of its own committee of vaccine experts next week, people in the eligible groups could begin seeking out the shots soon after. In addition to people over 65, those groups include younger adults at high risk of severe Covid-19 or serious complications because of medical conditions or their jobs.
[This article originally appeared in The New York Times.]