FDA panel recommends half-dose Moderna booster shots

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MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Millions of Americans are a step closer to being eligible for a booster shot following a recommendation from a panel of U.S. health advisers on Thursday, Oct. 14.

Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously voted to endorse booster shots for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for seniors, adults with medical conditions and people whose jobs or living situations put them at high risk. The booster dose is half the size of the first and second doses of Moderna.

"They're predicting ... there's going to be a sharp decrease in the number of side effects that people experience with the booster," said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator of the UW Health Moderna pediatric COVID-19 trial.

Local doctors said they have fielded questions and confusion from patients.

"I would say it's probably the most common question of those who are vaccinated that I get is either 1. Should I get a booster? ... (and) when am I gonna be able to get a booster?" said Dr. David Letzer, chairman of the Wisconsin Medical Society's task force on COVID-19.

Data shows protection from the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has waned, and doctors say people are now more likely to get breakthrough infections.

The White House says 7 million people already got a Pfizer booster. They were approved last month for the same groups of vulnerable people.

On Friday, the FDA panel will discuss booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the issue of mixing vaccine doses.

"One of the questions is: If you got an original series with the vaccine, can you get boosted with a different vaccine?" Hartman said.

Letzer said despite the constant conversations about boosters, people need to remember what is most important in trying to fight the virus.

"Fighting the virus is getting vaccinated. So, although boosters may be important, the first priority is really vaccinating the unvaccinated," he said.

Final decisions on boosters are expected next week.

U.S. officials stress that the priority is to get shots to the 66 million unvaccinated Americans who are eligible.

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