Oregon prepares for possible federal decisions to authorize COVID-19 booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines

Oregon will be ready to make booster shots available to eligible persons who had previously received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines, should the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amend its Emergency Use Authorizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommend their use.

Immunity generated by COVID-19 vaccines has been shown to wane over time. For this reason, on Sept. 24, the CDC recommended booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for specific groups of people at high risk of severe disease. A booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine may be given to specific groups of people at least six months after they completed their primary vaccine series.

The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) met yesterday to review data and voted to authorize Moderna vaccine booster doses for persons 65 years of age and older and persons 18 years of age and older at high risk of illness, or with frequent institutional or occupational exposure that puts them at high risk of complications of COVID-19.

Today, VRBPAC reviewed data and voted to authorize a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for those 18 years of age and older at least two months after they receive the currently recommended single dose.

CDC will take up any recommendations at the upcoming Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meetings on Oct. 21 and 22. The ACIP would then make a recommendation to the director of the CDC, who would make the official recommendation for use.

Oregon will await a final review of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by the Western states workgroup, which includes Oregon, Washington, California and Nevada. Normally, the workgroup convenes and reviews the ACIP recommendations immediately after they are made.

“We want to ask all eligible Oregonians who may be eligible for either the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson booster shots to be patient,” Dr. Paul Cieslak, Medical Director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations at the Oregon Health Authority, added. “A future booster appointment may not be immediately available, but those who are eligible will get one. The current vaccines will continue to protect vaccinated Oregonians from COVID-19, no matter what vaccination they received.”

Eligible residents in long-term care facilities, including seniors, should receive their boosters through vaccination plans developed by their homes and pharmacies. State officials are also planning ways to reach home-bound seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.

Vaccines will continue being made available to Oregonians through their health care provider or local pharmacy.