The FDA approved the additional dosages for the age group earlier today, however many people who are eligible have yet to receive their initial booster shots.
The Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccines can now be given a second booster dose to people aged 50 and up.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a statement permitting shots to begin immediately just hours after the Food and Drug Administration approved the second booster on Tuesday.
“Boosters are safe, and persons over 50 can now get a second booster four months after their first dosage to strengthen their protection even more,” Walensky said.
For immunocompromised people, the FDA has already approved a fourth shot. The FDA also approved a fifth dose, or second booster, for that group on Tuesday. Immunocompromised people were formerly allowed to get a three-dose initial immunisation series followed by a booster.
The two agencies’ haste in clearing the additional vaccine doses reflects their anxiety about the development of the highly contagious omicron subvariant known as BA.2. According to the most recent data from the CDC, the subvariant accounts for around 55 percent of new cases in the country.
Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, said during a briefing Tuesday that about a third of people aged 50 to 65 have major underlying illnesses that put them at risk of serious Covid.
“If it were my relatives,” Marks remarked, “I would send them out to do this again because of the better level of protection.”
He also mentioned that it’s possible that patients would require another dose of the Covid vaccine this fall.
Marks speculated that the later dose might not be the same as the ones now in use, and that regulators might switch to a variant-specific vaccination or one that targets many strains. Pfizer and Moderna are also testing a vaccine for the omicron version. Moderna is also experimenting with a shot that kills both delta and omicron versions.
“At some point, we’ll have to accept that this is a virus that will always be with us,” he said, adding that “we’ll have to come to terms with dealing with it on a regular basis.”
According to CDC data, only about half of individuals eligible for a booster have received one.
The FDA appears to be relying on information from Israel, where officials began offering fourth doses to vulnerable groups in December.
Officials may have a difficult time convincing people to get a second booster because the number of Covid cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities has remained low, experts say. As a result, some people may experience a lack of urgency and have a diminished dread of the disease.
Furthermore, many people believe the US botched the rollout of the first booster shot last year when it authorised the dose in an ambiguous manner.
Pfizer and Moderna both sought the FDA this month to approve a second booster, claiming that a second booster is now required because research reveals that the initial booster’s protection wears off after a few months. Pfizer’s request was restricted to those 65 and older, while Moderna’s was open to all adults.