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Huntsville Hospital doctor weighs in on booster shots ahead of Friday FDA meeting

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 9:03 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 15, 2021 at 9:16 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Millions of Americans are waking up Friday morning one step closer to getting a COVID vaccine booster shot if they choose.

On Thursday, an FDA advisory panel voted to recommend Moderna boosters for emergency use authorization. The FDA advisory panel will also discuss and vote on the Johnson & Johnson booster on Friday.

Before any Moderna or J&J booster shots can be administered, the CDC must give a stamp of approval.

If and when the CDC gives the green light for Moderna booster shots, here’s who is initially eligible.

  • People 65 and older
  • People 18 and older with underlying health conditions
  • Those 18 and older who work in high risk environments

Dr. Ali Hassoun, infectious disease specialist at Huntsville Hospital, said the goal of these boosters is to help maintain a person’s immunity and keep antibody levels strong.

“It’s been shown over the last several months, there are chances that in certain sets of populations the immune response and the benefit from the vaccine will go down some,” Dr. Hassoun said. “So to boost that immune response, we’ll give that third shot. And that third shot will increase your ability to fight the virus better if you get exposed.”

Dr. Hassoun is optimistic the FDA panel will also recommend Johnson & Johnson booster shots. In fact, he believes the J&J booster shot may be approved with less hesitation.

“We know there is a need to maintain that immunity,” Dr. Hassoun said. “We know there is a place where the winter is coming, there is going to be probably more close contact, more possible transmission, and we are going to need to keep up that level of immunity to be able to keep fighting this infection.”

Dr. Hassoun believes a person’s behaviors and exposure risk should be considered when determining who needs a booster shot.

“I think if you are in a school setting and you are a teacher where there is a lot of exposure, it will be worth it,” he said. “If you are at a place of higher chance of crowding and regular exposure, you are going to need it.”

Overall, Dr. Hassoun believes the booster shots will be gradually introduced, similar to how the initial doses of vaccines were.

The FDA advisory panel scheduled to discuss Johnson & Johnson booster shots on Friday, will also talk about mixing and matching vaccines. According to Dr. Hassoun, some early data show a benefit to mixing vaccines, particularly with the J&J shot.

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