Boosters are available for those persons who are at least six months removed from their initial primary vaccination series.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the emergency use authorizations (EUA) for both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines authorizing use of a single booster dose for all individuals 18 years of age and older.

Until now, the boosters have been limited to senior adults and those at increased risk of contraction, such as those who are immunocompromised.

“Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA has worked to make timely public health decisions as the pandemic evolves. COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be the best and highly effective defense against COVID-19. Authorizing the use of a single booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older helps to provide continued protection against COVID-19, including the serious consequences that can occur, such as hospitalization and death,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D., in a release.

Today’s action expands the use of booster doses of both vaccines to include all individuals 18 years of age and older at least six months after completion of the primary vaccination series of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.

“The FDA has determined that the currently available data support expanding the eligibility of a single booster dose of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to individuals 18 years of age and older,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Streamlining the eligibility criteria and making booster doses available to all individuals 18 years of age and older will also help to eliminate confusion about who may receive a booster dose and ensure booster doses are available to all who may need one.”

FDA Releases Evaluation of Benefits and Risks

Since Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech initially submitted safety and effectiveness data on a single booster dose following primary vaccination to the FDA, additional real-world data have become available on the recently increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and on the risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) following vaccination with these vaccines. These additional data enabled the FDA to reassess the benefits and risks of the use of these vaccines in the general adult population. The FDA has determined that the benefits of a single booster dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis in individuals age 18 years of age and older when used following completion of primary vaccination to provide continued protection against COVID-19 and the associated serious consequences that can occur including hospitalization and death.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting post-authorization/post-marketing studies to assess known serious risks of myocarditis and pericarditis. In addition, the FDA and the CDC have several systems in place to continually monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and allow for the rapid detection and investigation of potential safety concerns.

The fact sheets for both vaccines for recipients and caregivers and for healthcare providers contain information about the potential side effects, including the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis. The most commonly reported side effects by individuals who received a booster dose of the vaccines were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as fatigue, headache, muscle or joint pain and chills. Of note, swollen lymph nodes in the underarm were observed more frequently following the booster dose than after the primary two-dose series.

The FDA did not hold a meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee on these actions as the agency previously convened the committee for extensive discussions regarding the use of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines and, after review of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s EUA requests, the FDA concluded that the requests do not raise questions that would benefit from additional discussion by committee members.