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FDA authorizes Moderna, J&J booster shots, 'mixing and matching'

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FDA authorizes Moderna, J&J booster shots, 'mixing and matching'
A nurse holds vials of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. The FDA is expected to officially sign off on booster doses of the vaccines produced by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, possibly by Wednesday night.  Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 20 (UPI) -- The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and gave its approval for people to "mix and match" booster shots.

The agency granted emergency use authorization for the booster doses, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must also give its approval before additional shots get in arms. The CDC is scheduled to meet Thursday to examine data and requests related to the available coronavirus vaccines.

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"Today's actions demonstrate our commitment to public health in proactively fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic," acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock said.

"As the pandemic continues to impact the country, science 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. The available data suggest waning immunity in some populations who are fully vaccinated. The availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease."

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Federal health regulators are expected to take action soon on multiple requests related to COVID-19 vaccines -- including formally recommending that recipients in the United States can have a booster dose that's different from the vaccine they previously received.

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The FDA approval comes after an advisory committee recommended their authorization last week.

The FDA authorized a single booster dose of the Moderna vaccine at least six months after completion of the two-dose regimen for individuals 65 years and older, or 18 to 64 years old who also have a high risk of severe COVID-19 or have frequent institutional or occupational exposure to the virus.

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Individuals over the age of 18 may also receive a single booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months after their initial one-dose vaccine.

The FDA and CDC have already signed off on booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans over 65 and those with compromised immune systems or underlying health risks that make them more vulnerable to infection.

The FDA also said individuals may receive a booster dose of a vaccine different than the brand they originally received.

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Federal regulators are expected to act on "mixing and matching" vaccine doses after a study last week by the National Institutes of Health showed that doing so is safe and effective in bolstering the immune system against COVID-19.

Full regulatory approval means that Americans who received the Pfizer vaccine, for example, could get a Moderna booster -- and those who received the shot from Johnson & Johnson could take a booster dose from Pfizer. Those three vaccines are the only ones that have been approved for use in the United States.

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Researchers have said the "mix and match" recommendation could especially be beneficial for those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as data have shown that the shot doesn't seem to offer as much protection as the jabs from Pfizer and Moderna do.

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