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FDA clears Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 boosters for all US adults

They were previously authorized for vulnerable groups

SERBIA-HEALTH-VIRUS-VACCINE Photo by OLIVER BUNIC/AFP via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration opened booster shots for the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to all adults today, the companies announced, expanding eligibility outside of the initial, vulnerable groups they were cleared for earlier this fall.

Although the COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States are still highly effective protection against severe cases of the disease, hospitalization, and death, protection against any infection or symptoms appears to be weakening. A third, booster shot of the vaccines could restore that protection: Pfizer showed in a clinical trial that the shot was around 95 percent effective compared with people who only had two doses, essentially restoring the same efficacy seen in the initial clinical trials.

Analysis out of Israel and the United Kingdom, which have been using booster doses for longer than the US, also show that a third shot significantly blunts infection rates. They’re available to anyone over 40 in the United Kingdom and anyone over 12 in Israel.

Until now, booster shots of the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were officially available to people 65 years of age and older, those who are at high risk of severe disease, healthcare workers, and other people at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work. However, in response to recent upticks in infection rates, some states have moved ahead and started offering third doses to everyone. (Everyone who got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is already eligible for a second dose).

Just over 16 percent of people in the United States who had an initial vaccine series have already received a booster shot.