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Moderna’s COVID-19 booster vaccine: Approval status, who would be eligible and more

Moderna is looking at a booster for its COVID-19 vaccine.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Attention this week is on Pfizer’s vaccine booster, as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weigh who would qualify for a third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. But what if you received the Moderna vaccine? The drug maker said the vaccine’s effectiveness to guard against serious illness may be starting to wane for those who were the first to become fully vaccinated and a booster may be needed to maintain high levels of protection.

Moderna’s push for a follow-up COVID-19 shot for the fully vaccinated comes as booster shots are increasingly a hot — and at times contentious — topic of discussion across medical and scientific communities. 

To make sure COVID-19 boosters are ready when needed, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are each working on booster shots to bolster immunity, after early studies indicate the maximum protection of COVID-19 vaccines may wane after six to eight months. But the timelines for all three boosters differ, and Pfizer is ahead in the approval process and may have its booster available first, with Moderna a few weeks behind. (This week, Pfizer is expected to receive approval of its vaccine booster for those most at risk of infection.)

Here’s what we know right now about when you could get a Moderna booster shot, who would be eligible and where to get it. For more on COVID-19, here’s the latest on COVID-19 vaccines for kids, what to do if you lost your vaccination card, the difference between a booster and a third dose and breakthrough infections. And here’s what you should know about the new federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Moderna's COVID-19 booster vaccine: Approval status, who would be eligible and more


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Who can get a Moderna COVID-19 booster shot?

Although it’s not yet available to everyone already fully vaccinated, those who are immunocompromised and are 18 years of age or older are eligible for a third Moderna dose right now. (For Pfizer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s booster recommendation for is for those 12 and older who are also immunocompromised.) The Food and Drug Administration hasn’t authorized a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for immunocompromised people, due to a lack of data.

The CDC recommends consulting with a health care provider about your medical condition and whether an additional dose is appropriate. See our guide on the COVID-19 boosters for more information on a booster shot for moderately to severely immunocompromised people.

What would a Moderna booster shot do?

A COVID-19 booster shot — whether from Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson — would top off your immune response and guard against a breakthrough COVID infection as the vaccine’s effectiveness decreases.

Recent studies of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines show that their effectiveness can begin to wane after six months. Moderna this week said early data suggests that those who received the Moderna vaccine in 2020 are showing a higher rate of breakthrough COVID infections than those vaccinated this year, suggesting the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.

The decision whether to authorize a booster is up to the FDA, and the federal agency said this week that overall, authorized COVID-19 vaccines “still afford protection against severe COVID-19 disease and death in the United States.”

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President Biden is pushing for vaccine booster shots.


Screenshot by Andrew Gebhart/CNET

Who would be eligible for Moderna’s COVID-19 booster shot?

Government scientists and health care officials propose that everyone in the US who is already fully vaccinated should be eligible for a booster shot. Pending approval by the FDA, those first boosters could be available as soon as this month.

Not everyone agrees, however, that we need boosters now. A group of scientists this week expressed concern about the administration’s booster plan, writing in the medical journal The Lancet that “available evidence does not show the need for widespread use of booster vaccination.”

“Boosting might ultimately be needed in the general population because of waning immunity” but the vaccines continue to be effective against COVID-19 and the delta variant, the scientists wrote. “Current evidence does not, therefore, appear to show a need for boosting in the general population.” Instead, the scientists recommend using the current supply of vaccines for those with a risk of serious disease and for those who have not yet received any vaccine.

The CDC and FDA are expected to limit the Pfizer booster to those most at risk of infection.

When will the Moderna booster shot be available?

President Joe Biden has proposed several time frames for the COVID vaccine booster, anywhere from eight months after being fully vaccinated to five months after the final jab. 

Biden said the final call lies with the FDA and CDC. “As soon as they are authorized, those eligible will be able to get a booster right away,” Biden said during his recent speech on federal vaccine mandates.

Moderna’s booster may not be the first available, however. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, Pfizer’s booster shot may be the first to receive approval because it is furthest along in the FDA approval process. Fauci said Moderna may be a few weeks behind Pfizer’s pending approval.

Will the Moderna booster be the same as the two Moderna COVID-19 shots?

Yes. As with Pfizer’s booster, the third Moderna shot will be the same vaccine as the first two doses. To make your life simpler, Moderna is also working on a combination shot that includes this year’s flu vaccine and its COVID booster vaccine.

Where can I get my Moderna booster shot?

According to the White House, boosters will be available at roughly 80,000 places across the country, including over 40,000 local pharmacies. Some 90% of Americans have a vaccine site within 5 miles of where they live. You can check Vaccines.gov to see which vaccines are available where, or call 1-800-232-0233 for vaccine information.

Do I have to pay for the Moderna COVID-19 booster shot?

In addition to making it easy to get your booster, it will be free regardless of immigration or health insurance status. 

For more on coronavirus treatments and vaccines, here’s what we know about monoclonal antibody treatments, the new federal vaccine mandates and why people may not want the shot.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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