FDA authorizes 2nd COVID-19 Vaccine Booster for Older Adults; UPMC Ready to Provide More Shots

By: Beth Mausteller

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna Covid-19 vaccines for people 50 and older. The second booster dose may be administered at least four months after a person received a first booster.  

“It’s pretty typical for a vaccine to require a primary series and a booster or two,” said Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director, infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at UPMC. He warned that this new authorization should not be interpreted to mean that the vaccines are ineffective. People who are vaccinated with one booster dose are well-protected against serious complications of COVID-19.  New research suggests that if you are older, a fourth dose can help maintain the benefit of the vaccine. 

The definitive vaccine schedule for COVID-19 is still being determined and that process could take years.  Is COVID-19 a disease that will be treated with a periodic booster, like tetanus?  Will a regular booster be necessary, as for a changing virus like the flu?  No matter what the answers, Snyder said, “It’s almost a certainty that getting vaccinated will prepare you, at least in part, for the next variant. The best way to be prepared for what variant comes next is to get vaccinated now.”  

The FDA authorized the fourth dose after a recent review of data from Israel showed that people in a higher age group benefit from a second booster. The FDA had already approved a fourth dose for people with compromised immune systems. 

Snyder wants people who haven’t been vaccinated yet to know the pandemic isn’t over.  “There will be more ups and downs.  We can be confident that getting the vaccine now will offer some protection against future variants.”  

He anticipates UPMC will make this fourth vaccine dose available for people 50 and over within the week.