Will the FDA Approve the Moderna COVID-19 Booster This Week?

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Oct. 11 2021, Published 10:06 a.m. ET

Some senior citizens and other members of high-risk populations in the U.S. have already received a third COVID-19 shot. However, the FDA only approved the Pfizer booster shot, specifically for those who already received the Pfizer series. Is Moderna next in line?

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With the FDA and CDC meeting this week, a Moderna booster shot could come sooner than you might have realized.

FDA advisers to meet this week about potential Moderna booster shot

Right now, Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved for a booster dose in certain populations (specifically, those over 65 years old or people with compromised immune systems). Moderna and Johnson & Johnson haven't received booster approval yet.

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That could change as soon as this week. Advisers from the FDA are set to meet on Oct. 14–15 to discuss potential booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Right now, booster shots are only available for the same brand of vaccine. That means anyone who received a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson dose is only eligible for their respective brands and they can't mix and match.

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The FDA meeting this week will prioritize the safety and efficacy of the Moderna shot, with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine following suit. Regardless of brand, FDA vaccine regulator Dr. Peter Marks told reporters, "The data seem to demonstrate that booster shots seem necessary."

Will Moderna vaccine recipients be able to mix and match?

There's controversy about mixing and matching vaccines (getting a booster shot from a different brand than the series you initially received). Right now, mixing and matching isn't approved, which means at-risk folks who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are currently left out of the eligible booster population.

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However, many experts say mixing and matching could actually be beneficial for Moderna and other vaccine recipients.

Specifically, CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen told reporters, "The mRNA vaccines really should be interchangeable." Pfizer and Moderna are both mRNA vaccines.

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The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is different due to its rare but serious side effect of a blood clotting disorder. Regulators will need additional information about these risks to make an informed decision about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci says mix-and-match research about Moderna has been available since September.

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Booster doses are outpacing new vaccines

Despite limitations on who can receive the third Pfizer COVID-19 shot, 6 million people have already bitten the booster bullet. According to CNN Health, "417,237 people are getting a booster shot each day, while only 282,317 people are starting their vaccination series each day and 295,072 people are becoming fully vaccinated each day."

Ultimately, it's proving more difficult to convince unvaccinated people to get vaccinated in the first place than it is to get already-vaccinated Americans hooked up with a booster shot. Still, campaigns are moving forward. Private sector workers face the possibility of company-imposed vaccine mandates, Moderna or otherwise.

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