The confusion surrounding COVID-19 booster shots has prompted VERIFY viewers to ask many questions via email and text, including who should get a second booster and when it might be available.
About 45% of fully vaccinated Americans have received one booster shot, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC authorized the first booster shot for all adults in November 2021, and a study shared by the public health agency in February found that the shot’s effectiveness begins to wane after about four months.
More recently, some Twitter users were looking ahead to an expected decision from health officials about a second COVID-19 booster for older adults.
Can people age 50 and older get a second COVID-19 booster shot?
Yes, people age 50 and older can get a second COVID-19 booster shot following FDA authorization and a recommendation from the CDC. The agencies have also signed off on a second booster shot for some younger people who are immunocompromised.
WHAT WE FOUND
The FDA announced in a press release on Tuesday that it authorized a second booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for those age 50 and older, along with certain immunocompromised people. The CDC also recommended those groups receive a second booster shot.
Some studies have shown that a second booster shot can provide a jump in COVID-19 antibodies, which protect people from getting severe COVID-19 infections and, in some cases, from getting infected at all. Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna said data from Israel showed a second booster shot was safe and effective during the omicron variant surge.
The second COVID-19 booster of Pfizer or Moderna can be administered to people ages 50 and older at least four months after they receive their first booster dose of any approved vaccine, the FDA says.
The CDC previously recommended a first booster shot for “moderately or severely” immunocompromised people after they received their three-dose primary vaccine series. With the addition of a second booster shot, some immunocompromised people are now eligible for five vaccine doses.
Following the FDA authorization and CDC recommendation on Tuesday, people 12 and older who are immunocompromised can receive a second booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least four months after receiving their first. A second booster of Moderna is only available to immunocompromised adults ages 18 and older.
People who have been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or blood cancers, organ and stem cell transplant recipients, and people who take medications that suppress their immune systems are among those who are considered “moderately or severely immunocompromised.”
Adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at least four months ago can also receive a second booster dose of the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines, according to the CDC.
The second booster shot is “especially important for those 65 and older and those 50 and older with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for severe disease from COVID-19 as they are the most likely to benefit from receiving an additional booster dose at this time,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said.
“Older adults are at highest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19,” the CDC says on its website, adding that more than 81% of COVID-19 deaths occur in people over age 65. Pfizer BioNTech said in a press release that the second booster for those ages 50 and older is “meant to extend high levels of protection against COVID-19 for the most vulnerable populations in advance of potential future waves.”
For now, people under the age of 50 who are not immunocompromised are still only eligible for one booster shot, according to the FDA. The CDC, FDA and other public health partners will “continue to evaluate the need for additional booster doses for all Americans,” Walensky said.