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Photo: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday gave its approval for Americans to get booster shots that are different from the COVID vaccine they initially received.

Why it matters: The recommendation from the FDA, which also authorized booster shots for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Wednesday, paves the way for an expansion of booster shots.

Details: Moderna boosters may be given six months after completing the two-dose series while J&J boosters may be given two months after the initial jab, the FDA said in a statement.

  • The Moderna booster is half of the dose that is administered for a primary series dose.
  • The FDA recommends the Moderna booster for anyone 65 and older or those over 18 with a higher risk of severe COVID or exposure to the virus.
  • The J&J booster is recommended for anyone over the age of 18.

Worth noting: People who received a shot of J&J's vaccine have a stronger neutralizing antibody response if they receive an mRNA shot instead of a second J&J one, according to NIH data presented to a key FDA advisory committee.

The big picture: Since most Americans aren't yet eligible, only 4.6% of the U.S. population has received a booster shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, nearly 12% of people 65 and older have received a booster.

  • Some individuals will undoubtedly benefit from getting a booster shot, but experts say that the most important goal for the U.S. right now should be convincing vaccine holdouts to get their initial round of shots, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.
  • About 77% of the eligible U.S. population have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per the CDC.

What they're saying: Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said that the new recommendation is important for "continued protection" against COVID-19, citing data that suggest immunity in fully vaccinated people wanes over time.

  • "[S]cience has shown that vaccination continues to be the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19, including the most serious consequences of the disease, such as hospitalization and death," Woodcock said.

Don't forget: The World Health Organization has criticized the Biden administration for pushing boosters instead of providing vaccines for lower-income countries.

What's next: A CDC advisory panel will review the boosters and issue its own recommendations.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 27, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

Nov 27, 2021 - World

South Africa says it's being "punished" for detecting new COVID variant

South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor addresses the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz - Pool/Getty Images)

South Africa said Saturday it's being "punished" for detecting the new Omicron coronavirus variant as more countries rush to enact travel bans and restrictions.

Driving the news: The U.S. imposed air travel restrictions from eight countries Friday in response to the Omicron variant. Countries in Europe and Asia have also implemented their own travel restrictions in response to Omicron.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Updated Nov 26, 2021 - Health

COVID vaccines of the future might not be shots

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As vaccine makers pursue the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, some are working to develop products that wouldn't require a shot.

Why it matters: Delivering a vaccine through a pill or a nasal spray could make them much easier to administer, especially in places where distribution is challenging — or even for people who just don't like needles.