Americans are now free to get a free booster dose of all three COVID-19 vaccines, and can even choose to mix and match their vaccines, after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on new recommendations Thursday night.
At the same time, CDC recommended boosters for certain people who got Moderna vaccine and all 15 million Americans who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Clinics, doctors and pharmacies can begin giving boosters as soon as Friday.
"The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given. And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death" Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC's director, said in a statement.
COVID booster questions, answered: Do you need another shot? Can you mix and match vaccines?
A CDC advisory committee recommended Thursday afternoon that people be allowed to choose among the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as a COVID-19 booster shot. The committee said it could increase protection against the disease that is killing on average 1,093 Americans a day.
A booster of the Moderna vaccine was recommended at least six months after people get their second shot, but only for those 65 and older or 18 and older if they're at high risk for severe COVID-19, or their jobs or living conditions put them at high risk of exposure to the virus.
A second dose of the J&J vaccine was recommended for everyone who received their first dose at least two months ago.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which met Thursday, made its decisions based on data presented by the vaccine makers and a National Institutes of Health study. It also considered the endorsement of similar recommendations on Wednesday by the Food and Drug Administration.
A booster dose is not required for a person to be considered fully immunized. People who received two doses of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or one dose of J&J, are fully immunized.
All booster doses will be free, just as all COVID-19 vaccines are, Reddy said.
FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for people 65 and older or at high risk for COVID-19 because of health problems, jobs or living conditions on Sept. 22.
The Moderna booster dose is 50 micrograms, one-half the initial 100 micrograms of the initial two doses. Moderna used the smaller dose because it restored the level of immunity as well as a larger dose.
“Our goal is to always use the dose that is most optimally effective for boosting,” said Dr. Jacqueline Miller, Moderna’s senior vice president for infectious diseases.
Johnson & Johnson presented data showing that a single dose of its vaccine provided 74% protection against severe disease globally and 70% protection against all symptomatic disease. Trends over time showed a decline in effectiveness against symptomatic COVID-19, most likely linked to coronavirus variants, said Dr. Penny Heaton, the company's global therapeutic area head for vaccines.
More than 189 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, about 57% of the total population. Hospitalization rates among unvaccinated Americans are between nine and 15 times higher than among vaccinated people, according to the CDC.
Almost 6% of fully vaccinated Americans have already received a COVID-19 booster shot, according to CDC data.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID boosters get OK from CDC director, can begin as soon as Friday