AUSTIN, Texas - Austin Public Health held its weekly news conference on the coronavirus as the Centers for Disease Control announced that millions more Americans can get a COVID-19 booster.
Certain people who received Pfizer vaccinations months ago already are eligible for a booster and now the CDC says specific Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients qualify, too. And in a bigger change, the agency is allowing the flexibility of "mixing and matching" that extra dose regardless of which type people received first.
The Food and Drug Administration had already authorized such an expansion of the nation's booster campaign on Wednesday, and it was also endorsed Thursday by a CDC advisory panel. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky had the final word on who gets the extra doses.
There still are restrictions on who qualifies and when for a booster. Starting six months past their last Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, people are urged to get a booster if they're 65 or older, nursing home residents, or at least 50 and at increased risk of severe disease because of health problems. Boosters also were allowed, but not urged, for adults of any age at increased risk of infection because of health problems or their jobs or living conditions. That includes health care workers, teachers, and people in jails or homeless shelters.
Moderna's booster will come at half the dose of the original two shots.
As for recipients of the single-shot J&J vaccine, a COVID-19 booster is recommended for everyone at least two months after their vaccination. That's because the J&J vaccine hasn't proved as protective as the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer options.
The CDC panel didn't explicitly recommend anyone get a different brand than they started with but left open the option — saying only that a booster of some sort was recommended. And some of the advisers said they would prefer that J&J recipients receive a competitor's booster, citing preliminary data from an ongoing government study that suggested a bigger boost in virus-fighting antibodies from that combination.