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Scoring A Boost For Boosters

Gamble: Moderna, J&J Boosters May Be Coming Soon

Photo by Derek Redd Nurse Dixie Ellwood prepares Tishawana Terry’s arm for a COVID-19 shot Tuesday at the Ohio County vaccination clinic at The Highlands. Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said those who received the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson versions of the vaccine soon could have the opportunity for a booster shot.

WHEELING — After six months, only one of the three most common COVID-19 vaccines available in America is recommending a booster shot, but more may be coming sooner than later.

Currently, a booster shot for the Pfizer vaccine is the only one authorized, with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines still only offering a third dose to the immunocompromised.

Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said Tuesday that this is due to Pfizer being the only one of the three vaccines to receive full FDA approval — under the name Comirnaty — while the others are still on emergency use authorization.

Gamble said that Moderna may see full approval within weeks, as that matter is being brought before the advisory boards.

“We should all prepare that we’re probably going to need a booster, both Johnson & Johnson and Moderna,” Gamble said.

“But it’s going to be based on what is presented from the company, with their research data, to the advisory panel to say ‘This is why we think a booster is necessary.’ It’s not a given that if one has a booster, the other gets one.”

The need for a booster shot, Gamble said, arises when research indicates that disease among a vaccinated population is becoming prevalent, and that the initial dose or doses no longer provide sufficient protection. Gamble said that there “are a lot of unknowns” with regards to how a booster dose of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines would work, such as age ranges, job criteria groups, or dosing requirements.

“The assumption would be, if they’re going to meet, it’ll be within the next two weeks, the advisory committee will meet to discuss boosters for Moderna solely or Moderna and Pfizer,” Gamble said. “We think it will happen within two weeks. Approval can come relatively quickly, to the point where they meet, it moves to the next level of approval with the CDC, and … states adopt that relatively quickly.”

If Moderna sees authorization for a booster shot, Gamble anticipates the demand will be high locally, as more people received the Moderna shot than other companies.

“We will see, especially in the Ohio Valley, … a lot of need, because we gave a lot of Moderna vaccine at that time. We’ll probably see a larger volume of individuals seeking a booster than we did with Pfizer,” he said. “The Pfizer was targeted to health care facilities, long-term care, (health care workers) and a few other groups. Moderna came out and that’s when we did those large clinics for individuals of a specific age or risk, and we did a lot of clinics very early.

“The counties came together — Marshall, Wetzel, Ohio — we did clinics at the Fairgrounds in Moundsville. That was Moderna. We’ll have a lot more individuals who are eligible, if we follow the same schedule that Pfizer had, six or eight months from your second dose.”

Gamble added that the possibility of a Johnson & Johnson booster shot was “interesting,” as its development coming after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines means that there may not be as much demand for boosters, as most who got vaccinated as soon as possible received one of the other two vaccines.

Gamble added that more information would be forthcoming from the meetings of the federal advisory committees.

“We’ll see. There’s a lot to be discussed on why it’s needed, who it’s needed for, what’s the dosing, what’s the timeframe,” he said.

“Those on the street, if you’re waiting and wondering: Be patient. Eventually, a booster announcement will be made, and when it is, most of the venues, county health departments in particular, will be ready to give those out pretty timely.”


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