FDA expected to OK 4th COVID-19 vaccine dose for adults over 50, UW doctor weighs in

SEATTLE — The FDA is expected to give its authorization for a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for some Americans as early as Tuesday – giving adults over 50 the option to get a second booster without an official recommendation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to give its authorization for a fourth dose of Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for Americans 50 and older, as early as Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is then expected to follow with what’s known as a “permissive recommendation” – meaning the dose would be available to those who want it, but it would not have an official recommendation.

Reducing hospitalizations and deaths remain the driving forces for the approval of a fourth dose (AKA second booster). But the decision to make a fourth jab available to the general public has been controversial for some in the medical community, citing a lack of data.

“I think my initial reaction to a fourth shot was, I haven’t seen the data to really support it for general use,” said Dr. Anna Wald, head of the Allergy and Infectious Disease Division and University of Washington School of Medicine.

Dr. Wald echoed the sentiments of many in the medical community, saying until more research became available, the focus should remain on Americans who have yet to start their vaccine series, or receive a first booster.

“There’s some emerging data that provides additional protection against hospitalization but it’s really very marginal, so I’m not sure that [a fourth dose] is going to make a big difference in our fight against this pandemic,” Dr. Wald said.

“I’m sure another dose will boost antibodies and will provide some marginal benefit. I just don’t know that it’s enough to roll out another dose to most of the population at this time,” Dr. Wald continued.

Dr. Wald said the best way to get that data is for more people to take part in clinical trials. UW Medicine shared a link to its current trials for those who are interested.