Dr. Fauci Says You Need a Booster ASAP If You Got This Vaccine

The COVID adviser discussed recent recommendations for additional shots.

Following weeks of debate over the need for booster shots, an advisory panel for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now endorsed additional doses of each of the three vaccines available in the country: Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. So far, more than 8 million people have received a Pfizer booster, which the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized first. Most Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients are still waiting for their boosters to be officially authorized and recommended by these two agencies, but health officials are already warning that—depending on which vaccine you received—getting a booster as soon as you're eligible may be even more pressing.

RELATED: If You Got Moderna or J&J, Dr. Fauci Says Here's When You Can Get a Booster.

White House COVID adviser Anthony Fauci, MD, discussed booster shots and FDA panel recommendations on Oct. 17 during an interview on ABC's This Week with co-anchor Martha Raddatz. When asked about recent booster recommendations for the 15 million recipients of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the advisor said that the data presented showed that "very likely, this should have been a two-dose vaccine to begin with."

On Oct.15, the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) unanimously recommended that all Johnson & Johnson recipients get another shot of the vaccine at least two months after they got their first dose. This was a major shift from the panel's recommendations for Pfizer and Moderna, as booster doses of these two vaccines were only endorsed for select groups: those 65 and older or those younger who are at high risk due to medical, institutional, or occupational reasons.

"Everyone who received that first dose of J&J … should receive [the booster]," Fauci confirmed. According to data presented to the FDA, an additional shot of this vaccine given at least two months after initial vaccination boosted protection levels against symptomatic COVID to 94 percent and against severe COVID, 100 percent.

Some committee members also pointed out clear evidence showing that Johnson & Johnson offers the lowest protection of the three vaccines, noting that it would be unfair not to recommend a booster shot for this vaccine after endorsing additional shots for Moderna and Pfizer.

"There is a public health imperative here, because what we're seeing is that this is a group with overall lower efficacy than we have seen with the mRNA vaccines. So there is some urgency there to do something," Arnold Monto, MD, the acting chairman of the VRBPAC and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said, per The New York Times.

RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

But Raddatz also asked Fauci about a recent study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which not only found that getting a booster from a different vaccine is safe and effective, but that Johnson & Johnson recipients might benefit even more from getting either a Moderna or Pfizer booster. According to the study, which was preprinted on Oct. 13 and not yet peer reviewed, Johnson & Johnson recipients who got a Moderna booster had their neutralizing antibody levels rise 76-fold within 15 days, while a Pfizer booster raised their antibody levels 35-fold. A Johnson & Johnson booster only increased the levels 4-fold.

"That is true, the data you refer to, that if you boost people who have originally received J&J with either Moderna or Pfizer, the level of antibodies that you induce in them is much higher than if you boost them with the original J&J," Fauci said.

"However, you're talking about laboratory data, which very often are reflective of what you would see clinically," he continued. "But the data of boosting the J&J first dose with a J&J second dose is based on clinical data. So what's going to happen is that the FDA is going to look at all those data, look at the comparison and make a determination of what they will authorize."

The FDA is likely to give authorization for the Johnson & Johnson booster soon, usually opting to align directly with the advisory panel's endorsement. Once that occurs, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet to give its recommendations before CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, signs off on the official CDC ruling. Fauci says that the FDA and CDC are likely to give flexibility in their recommendations based on each individual person's situation, as the risk-benefit profile may be different depending on a number of factors.

"I think it's going to be variable depending on who you are," he said. "For example, a woman of childbearing age who would have almost no issues at all with a possible adverse event of myocarditis, which you see rarely but you do see it with the mRNA vaccine, that person might want to opt for [a different booster]. If you are a young man who does have that very, very rare risk of getting a myocarditis, you might want to take the J&J route."

RELATED: Dr. Fauci Just Gave an Update on Getting a Booster of a Different Vaccine.

Filed Under