U.S. regulators authorized another round of COVID-19 booster shots Tuesday for older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
The Food and Drug Administration issued new guidance saying seniors over the age of 65 can get another dose of the so-called bivalent vaccine that targets omicron variants of the virus, as long as it's been at least four months since their last dose.
As for those with weakened immune systems, the agency said some can get another bivalent booster at least two months later. For everyone else, the FDA said the original versions of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are now outdated and will no longer be administered. Instead, people getting vaccinated will now receive the new omicron-targeted shot. The agency also said most unvaccinated individuals will only need one dose of the new vaccine, rather than multiple doses of the original mRNA vaccine.
For many Americans, the pandemic is a thing of the past, and updating their vaccination status has turned into more of an inconvenience, something the new FDA guidance hopes to address.
"At this stage of the pandemic, data support simplifying the use of the authorized mRNA bivalent COVID-19 vaccines and the agency believes that this approach will help encourage future vaccination," said Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "COVID-19 continues to be a very real risk for many people, and we encourage individuals to consider staying current with vaccination."
The FDA says the new bivalent vaccines provide protections against both the original strain of the virus and the omicron strains known as BA.4 and BA.5.
According to CDC data, only about 42% of seniors over the age of 65 — and just 20% of all U.S. adults — have received their first updated bivalent vaccine.
As for children who are unvaccinated, the FDA says they may receive two doses of the Moderna bivalent vaccine or three doses of the updated Pfizer shot. Kids who are already at least partially vaccinated may also receive the updated vaccine, but the number of doses depends on their vaccination history, the agency said.
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