COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
A third coronavirus vaccine maker has submitted data on the effectiveness of a booster shot while federal regulators decide whether to OK any boosters at all.
Johnson & Johnson released new data showing a second dose of its vaccine can increase protection against COVID-19 up to 94% the same week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a booster shot of Pfizer's vaccine would be available. However, the uncertainty over a date for booster shots to begin has caused public confusion, with little clarity or explanation on the timeline.
The Janssen vaccine has been in development by Johnson & Johnson as a more effective two-dose version of the group's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine. The second dose should be taken 56 days after the first shot, and the study shows it will be 100% effective against severe infections and 94% effective against moderate infections.
"However, just like with these booster doses, there is a process that has to be followed, including through the FDA and the CDC before any of that actually takes place, and the difficult thing about these types of processes is that we don't necessarily know what that timeline looks like," said Sara Humm with Columbia/Boone Public Health & Human Services.
The CDC released a joint statement in August saying booster shots would be available to the public this fall starting the week of Sept. 20. That was accompanied by a public address from the president touting the date.
"We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose," the joint statement said. "At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster."
When Sept. 20 came and passed, people wondered, where are the booster shots?
"This Sept. 20 date, which was Monday, had been thrown around at the federal level of a possible date of when booster doses might be available specifically for folks who had had their first or second dose about eight months ago," Humm said. "However, there are still hoops that need to be jumped through to be able to make that actually happen."
Health departments and hospitals are still waiting on federal approval processes, and Humm said they're finding out new information at the same time as everyone else.
An FDA panel last week recommended making the extra Pfizer shot available only for seniors and high-risk individuals. The panel defined seniors as those 65 years old and older, and included health care workers as being at high risk of contracting the disease. The committee, which advises the FDA, is not the final word in vaccines.
"This is the information that we're still waiting for our federal partners to actually hear about, just as in the past as these vaccines became available or eligible, two new groups are authorized or even then approved under FDA, and that same process has to happen again," said Lisa Cox with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Humm specified the difference between the booster shots and the third dose for high-risk individuals. People with certain conditions can already get a third dose and they can receive it anywhere that offers COVID vaccines.
"We've heard a lot about what's known as a third dose for those people who are immunocompromised and fall under very specific categories," Humm said. "Those people can get their third dose right now if they qualify."
When the CDC and FDA make their final decision on booster shots for other groups, the health department will recommend residents follow the federal guidelines on who should take the extra vaccines and work to offer them at clinics, Humm said.