FDA approves second COVID-19 vaccine booster for vulnerable groups

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a second booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people over 50 or who are immunocompromised, the agency announced Tuesday.

The decision comes as the United States faces yet another wave of infections, this time powered by an even more transmissible version of the ommicron variant of the virus. The FDA said in a statement that an additional dose could amplify declining protection against the vaccines in these groups.

Again, the FDA is relying on data from other countries as the basis for its decision-making around COVID-19 vaccines — in this case, data from Israel, which found lower rates of serious illness and death in older adults taking two boosters compared to just one. But research showed that while a fourth injection increased antibody levels for younger people, it didn’t offer much protection against infection with the virus.

The US is already struggling to get the first booster doses into the arms: More than half of fully vaccinated people have not received one and a third of people over 65 have not received a booster.

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