FDA staff doesn’t take stance on Moderna Covid boosters, says two doses protect against severe disease

Maryland National Guard Specialist James Truong (L) administers a Moderna coronavirus vaccine at CASA de Maryland’s Wheaton Welcome Center on May 21, 2021 in Wheaton, Maryland.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

Food and Drug Administration scientists on Tuesday declined to take a stance on whether to back booster shots of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, saying data shows two doses are still enough to protect against severe disease and death in the U.S.

“Some real world effectiveness studies have suggested declining efficacy of Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine over time against symptomatic infection or against the Delta variant, while others have not,” they wrote in a 45-page document published on the agency’s website. “However, overall, data indicate that currently US-licensed or authorized COVID-19 vaccines still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States.”

FDA staff similarly didn’t take a stance on Pfizer’s Covid booster shots last month. The agency’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee rejected Pfizer’s original plan to distribute the third shots to everyone 16 and older, paring that back to those most at risk of Covid, including the elderly and people with other health conditions. FDA officials later expanded those eligible to include people who worked or lived in settings that put them at a high risk of exposure, like health-care and grocery store workers.

The report by FDA scientists is meant to brief the committee, which meets Thursday to review Moderna”s request to clear Covid booster doses for adults. The documents published offer a glimpse of the agency’s view on third shots.

The meeting comes less than a month after U.S. regulators authorized Covid booster shots of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine to a wide array of Americans, including the elderly, adults with underlying medical conditions and those who work or live in high-risk settings like health and grocery workers.

The FDA advisory group is scheduled to discuss data on the safety and effectiveness of Moderna’s booster shot in adults on Thursday and J&J’s on Friday. The agency could make a final decision within days of the meetings, handing it off to the CDC and its vaccine advisory committee to make their own decision, likely next week.

Moderna applied for authorization of a booster dose with the FDA on Sept. 1. It said a third shot at half the dosage used for the first two jabs was safe and produced a stronger immune response than what was seen after the second dose in its phase three clinical trial.

The Biden administration hopes giving the U.S. population additional doses will also continue to ensure long-term and durable protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death as the fast-moving delta variant continues to spread.

The strain led to a surge in hospitalizations in the U.S., mainly among the unvaccinated. Still, some vaccinated Americans have suffered so-called breakthrough infections and just over 19,000 of them — less than 1% — have been hospitalized or died with Covid as of Sept. 20, according to data compiled by the CDC.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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