US FDA advisers back Moderna COVID-19 booster shots for older and high-risk people

October 17 ------ A panel of expert advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration unanimously voted on Thursday to recommend booster shots of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine for Americans aged 65 and older and those at high risk of severe illness. If the FDA signs off on Moderna's booster, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make specific recommendations on who should get the shots. CDC advisers are scheduled to meet next week.

The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met on Thursday to consider the additional dose of the Moderna vaccine and will weigh whether to make a similar recommendation for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on Friday. The vote to back Moderna's booster was 19-0. Moderna is seeking authorization of a booster that contains 50 micrograms of vaccine, half of strength of its regular dose but still higher than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot at 30 micrograms.

In addition to 65 and over and those at risk of severe COVID-19, the expert panel voted to recommend authorization of a third round of the Moderna vaccine for individuals ages 18 to 64 at risk of frequent exposure to coronavirus infections due to their jobs. The shots would be administered to people at least six months after the initial two-shot inoculation. U.S. health officials have been under pressure to authorize COVID-19 vaccine booster doses after the White House announced in August it planned a widespread booster campaign pending approvals from the FDA and the CDC. Both agencies signed off on Pfizer/BioNTech boosters for certain high-risk adults last month. Since then, nearly 9 million people have received a third shot, the CDC reported on Wednesday.