The group agreed that there was not yet strong enough evidence to recommend a booster to the general population.
The unanimous vote by a panel of external experts from the US Food and Drug Administration will enhance the ability of about 70 million Americans to increase their safety through a third shot at pharmacies, doctors’ offices, health clinics and other places.
But Dr. Eric Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at Harvard’s TH Chen School of Public Health, warns that the epidemic alone will not end.
“If we’re going to get out of this, it’s because of immunizations,” he said.
Specifically, the panel supported Modern Booster permissions for these groups:
People 65 years and older.
People between the ages of 18 and 64 who are at risk of severe Covid 19.
People between the ages of 18 and 64 who live or work in conditions that increase the risk of serious complications from COVID, such as living in institutions or working in healthcare.
“Younger and healthier people have a stronger immune response to the early vaccine than adults,” he said. Second, their defenses appear to be stronger over time. And they are at high risk of side effects, such as heartburn.
“I don’t see the need for a ‘tear it up’ campaign for boosters for everyone,” said Dr. Stanley Perlman, an immunologist at the University of Iowa.
Modern Booster recipients, such as Pfizer recipients, will have to wait at least six minutes after their second injection before qualifying for the third shot.
Earlier this week, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration review found that a booster shot of the modern vaccine – half the dose of early shots – increased protective antibodies in people who received the first two doses.
There is growing concern about evidence of so-called mild to moderate “breakthrough infections” in people with low antibody levels.
What is unclear is whether these falling antibody levels will, over time, increase the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and even death.
Antibodies, while easily measured, are just a barometer, said Dr. Paul Oft, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Another arm of the immune system – which deploys B cells, T cells and fresh antibodies – remembers the virus, and lasts longer. It provided an extra measure of protection.
Last month, authorities allowed the use of Pfizer boosters in high-risk groups.
But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 4% of Americans have received the booster. In the high-risk group for the elderly, 10 people have received a booster.