FDA panel endorses booster shot for J&J COVID-19 vaccine

U.S. health advisors endorsed a booster for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccination Friday. They cited concerns that Americans who received the single-dose shot weren't as protected than those who were given the two-dose brand.

FDA panel endorses booster shot for J&J COVID-19 vaccine

J&J informed the Food and Drug Administration that a booster can provide important protection up to two months after first vaccination. However, it may be more effective if people wait six months. The FDA advisory panel was unable to agree on the best timing and voted unanimously to recommend that boosters be administered at least two months after the initial shot.

Dr. Paul Offit, an FDA advisor from Children's Hospital Philadelphia, stated that "I believe this honestly was always a 2-dose vaccine." "It would be difficult to recommend this vaccine as a single dose vaccine at this time."

The FDA isn’t bound by this recommendation, as it makes a final determination -- and to add complexity to the debate, new research suggests that J&J recipients may have a stronger immune reaction if their booster dose comes from a different brand.

A preliminary study that looked at different combinations of shots and boosters showed that any type of booster could boost people's levels in virus-fighting antibodies for at least a few weeks. The most dramatic increase was seen after giving Moderna or Pfizer shots following the J&J single-dose vaccination.

The FDA advisers did not vote on whether this should be recommended, but they told the government to allow for flexibility with boosters. They said there were no safety red flags, even though it isn't yet clear how much mixing and matching might make in long-term health protection.

Dr. Ofer LEVY, Boston Children's Hospital said that "in the real world all these kinds of combinations are already occurring so I think it's an urgent matter for the FDA to help out with what is admittedly complicated and challenging scenario."

The government claims that all three U.S. vaccinations offer strong protection against COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths, and that priority should be given to those 66 million eligible but not vaccinated Americans most at risk. The nation is now moving towards a wider booster campaign due to the increased spread of the extra-contagious Delta variant and signs that milder infections are waning.

Pfizer boosters were first offered last month to older adults and those at higher risk of COVID-19 due to poor health, employment or living conditions. This was at least six months after the initial vaccination. Thursday's FDA advisory panel recommended that half-dose Moderna boosters be administered in the same way.

J&J's vaccine had consistently shown lower effectiveness across a series studies. The FDA panel eventually settled on another shot for recipients 18 and older, at least two months following their first vaccination.

"This is really -- with a second dose -- bringing them, I believe, on par with other vaccines in terms effectiveness," stated Dr. Archana Chaterjee from Rosalind Franklin University.

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