What you need to know about the FDA authorizing another Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 booster for 50+

CDC still needs to weigh in

Americans 50 and older can get a second COVID-19 booster if it’s been at least four months since their last vaccination, a chance at extra protection for the most vulnerable in case the coronavirus rebounds. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for that age group and for certain younger people with severely weakened immune systems.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized another COVID-19 booster for people age 50 and older.

The decision opens a fourth dose -of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to that age group at least four months after their previous booster.

Here’s what you need to know: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to weigh in on the decision. It’s not clear how soon that will happen. Until the additional dose is OK’d by the CDC, you can’t go to a local vaccine site to get the shot.

Regardless, the medical community is mixed about whether people even need this dose because at this point there’s just not much data to back it up.

When asked if he thinks people will get a fourth dose of the vaccine, UF Health director of infectious disease Chad Neilsen said, “All of the data from across the state of Florida and nation points to the answer being no.”

Neilsen’s referring to data from the CDC that shows, aross the nation, 44.8% of Americans received a booster dose. In Florida, that percentage is lower -- at 39.2%. And in Georgia, it’s 35.9%

“Whether or not people need it is a little harder to answer. So right now, the studies are fairly limited on the actual utility on that fourth booster shot, but it would be between the patient and their doctor whether they need it,” Neilsen said.

In the FDA’s statement released Tuesday, the agency cited three studies in Israel that tested a second booster dose. One included 700,000 participants, but the other two had less than 200 participants. All the studies did suggest that a second booster dose of Pfizer’s or Moderna’s shot would improve protection against severe COVID-19 and did not reveal any new safety concerns.

“I think the FDA wants to grant this authorization in case BA.2 becomes more of a problem here in the states -- which we are expecting. They don’t have to go back and redo or rush through paperwork,” Neilsen said.

Tuesday’s decision comes as the CDC says the new omicron subvariant BA.2 is now the dominant strain in the U.S., making up 54.9% of all new COVID-19 infections last week.

Still, the CDC is not expected to officially recommend a second booster shot but instead give the OK shots can be given to those who want them.