The Related Biological Products Advisory Committee - a panel of outside advisers - voted unanimously Thursday to recommend a Moderna booster shot for seniors, as well as high-risk younger adults.
"It's the same vaccine; only half the dose. Their data must suggest that is an appropriate dose to boost the immune response to a level that's protective," said Chrysan Cronin, director of public health and associate professor in public health at Muhlenberg College.
The recommendation is non-binding, but it's a key step toward expanding the U.S. booster campaign to millions of Americans.
"What we've seen so far from the data is that it does boost the antibody response and it gives people more protection against the circulating variants," said Dr. Debra Powell, chief of the Center For Infectious Diseases at Tower Health.
The FDA already approved emergency-use authorization for a Pfizer booster last month. Meanwhile, the jury is still out as to whether different boosters and vaccines could be mixed and matched with each other. Right now there are nine different possible combinations.
"Right now I do not think there's enough data to determine that," Cronin said.
The advisory board will reconvene Friday and decide whether to recommend a booster for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Final decisions about the emergency-use orders are expected next week.
Meanwhile, medical experts from our area say it's likely not the last time we'll be hearing about the possibility of boosters for COVID.
"I expect we'll need additional boosters down the road. What we saw with the initial vaccine series was about six months," Powell said.
"It's likely in the future we'll have to get a yearly vaccine or a vaccine every other year, depending on what strains are circulating," Cronin said.