An external panel of experts recommended that the Food and Drug Administration authorize booster shots for everyone who received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, to be given at least two months after the first dose.
The FDA will now discuss the recommendation and make a final decision on whether to approve a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was originally designed as a single shot.
The panel unanimously voted in favor of a second dose for those aged 18 and up, after the company said their studies showed that the booster would bring the effectiveness of the vaccine up to 94%.
All three of the approved vaccines — along with Johnson & Johnson’s, that includes Moderna’s and Pfizer’s mRNA vaccines — are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death. But Johnson & Johnson, which uses a different process to create protective antibodies, is the weakest of the group, offering around 71% protection, according to a recent study. Moderna was the most effective, at 93%, while Pfizer was 88% protective.
The second dose would offer added protection for the nearly 15 million people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“I think, frankly, this was always a two-dose vaccine,” one panel member, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said during the discussion, according to NPR.
On Thursday, the FDA panel also recommended a booster shot for the most high-risk Moderna recipients, in line with what the FDA has already approved for those who had the Pfizer vaccine. The panel suggested that the FDA approve a third shot, though at half the dose of the first two shots, for people over 65 years old, those who are immunocompromised and people in high-risk jobs. The FDA will consider their recommendation next week.
The majority of Americans, around 104 million, have received Pfizer’s vaccine, and more than 69,400,000 got Moderna, according to the Centers of Disease Control. Just over 15 million Americans received Johnson & Johnson.
As of Oct. 15, just over half of Americans, 56.8%, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 65.8% have received at least one dose. Of the Americans eligible to get vaccinated, those aged 12 and up, 66.5% are fully vaccinated and 76.9% have received at least one dose.
The more you know!