WASHINGTON (The Hill) — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shortened the amount of time Moderna recipients need to wait to get a booster dose from six months to five months on Friday, aligning the timeline with Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine. The agency announced it amended its emergency use authorization for the Moderna vaccine to allow adults to get a booster dose a month earlier than previously.
Officials, including Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, cited the highly transmissible omicron variant as reasoning for the update. “Vaccination is our best defense against COVID-19, including the circulating variants, and shortening the length of time between completion of a primary series and a booster dose may help reduce waning immunity,” he said in a statement.
The move comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech recipients get their booster dose at least five months after their primary series, pointing to the omicron surge. Boosters are suggested for Johnson & Johnson recipients two months after their initial shot.
The push to expand booster access early comes amid skyrocketing cases that have more than tripled in two weeks, according to data from The New York Times. But experts say hospitalizations that are rising at a lower rate of 65% may be a better indication of omicron’s impact.
Although vaccinated people still have protection against the omicron strain, the variant has sparked more breakthrough cases. Studies have shown that booster doses greatly improve protection against the highly transmissible strain, leading agencies to make boosters available to more populations.
This week, the CDC officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech booster for 12- to 15-year-olds at least five months after the primary series and an additional dose for moderately and severely immunocompromised 5- to 11-year-olds about a month after their second shot. The Moderna vaccine is currently only authorized for adults.