Following a worldwide moratorium called by the World Health Organization on COVID-19 booster shots until the end of September, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster has been approved and made available to select populations in the U.S., including immunocompromised individuals and those at occupational or institutional risk. 

Christy Yu / Daily Nexus

Although the COVID-19 vaccine remains highly effective against COVID-19 cases, particularly in preventing hospitalization and death, data collected by CDC show this effectiveness decreases over time as immunity wanes and the COVID-19 disease evolves, as we see in the worldwide prevalence of the delta variant. 

All those who are 65 years or older and those 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions are recommended to receive the booster five months after the date of their second vaccination. It is recommended that people aged 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions and people aged 18 to 64 who are significantly exposed to COVID-19 in either an occupational or institutional setting receive the booster dose six months after their second vaccination date. Mixing vaccine brands between the second and third dose is not recommended by U.S. public health officials. As of Tuesday, Oct. 5, booster shots are only available to these groups of individuals who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 

CDC provides data indicating that among immunocompromised people, there is lower vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 illness and hospitalization, as well as a reduced immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. 

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved COVID-19 boosters by either Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, Johnson & Johnson filed a request on Oct. 5 for the FDA to authorize a second dose for those aged 18 and older who received the one-dose vaccine. Next week, the FDA is convening a panel of outside advisers to review data presented by both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson concerning their respective booster shots. This request comes amid a sense of urgency by the U.S. government to eliminate COVID-19 in the country, as they seek to expand availability of boosters to even more Americans. 

According to the CDC, 99,477,041 people in America are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine; 67,779,695 people received the Moderna two-dose COVID-19 vaccine; and 14,651,137 individuals received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. According to published surveys by the Morning Consult completed in August, 76%-87% of vaccinated adults reported they would get a booster dose if made available.

A version of this article appeared on p.1 of the October 7, 2021 print edition of the Daily Nexus. It serves as a complement to the Opinion piece, “Argument in the Office: Booster or Bust.”