People who are 50 and older and certain immunocompromised individuals may get a second Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster four months after they received the first.



The Biden administration is expected to authorize a second COVID-19 vaccine booster shot for anyone age 50 and older. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein says the decision is surprising and controversial.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: The Food and Drug Administration plan would authorize a second booster of the Pfizer-BionNTech and Moderna vaccines for anyone age 50 and older within days. The plan comes as evidence is increasing that the protection from three shots is fading and another shot would help boost immunity back up and as concern is mounting that an even more contagious version of the omicron variant, known as BA.2, could fuel yet another surge. Dr. Eric Topol at Scripps Research is among those welcoming the plan.

ERIC TOPOL: We have a large number of people who are at least 4 to 6 months past when they got the third shot. And we know there's considerable waning. Without protection against the omicron variant, particularly now we're confronting BA.2, there's a very high risk of hospitalizations and death.

STEIN: But others question the plan. The vaccines are still doing a good job keeping most people from getting seriously ill. And critics say there just isn't enough evidence yet that another shot is needed and would provide stronger protection that would last. They're especially surprised another booster would be offered to people as young as age 50, especially when so many people still haven't gotten their first shots or first boosters. Other countries are only offering extra boosters for older people. Here's Saad Omer at Yale.

SAAD OMER: What concerns me is that we are not investing in increasing the coverage of booster doses and even the primary doses. These are the things that are not receiving enough attention.

STEIN: Many are especially concerned that a decision would be made without an open public discussion of the pros and cons and input from outside independent advisers. But the administration apparently decided it's important to make another booster an option as quickly as possible in case another surge occurs and is looking to offer it to younger ages to make sure people of color who are most likely to suffer other health problems that put them at risk also have the option. Rob Stein, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.