ATLANTA - About 70 million Americans are now eligible to receive one a COVID-19 booster shot, after the FDA and CDC cleared the way for recipients of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to receive boosters.
Health officials say 10 million Americans have already received a COVID-19 booster shot, including 40% of fully vaccinated seniors.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says everyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago is now eligible for a booster dose.
"For those who got Pfizer and Moderna, if your dose was more than 6 months ago, you're eligible if you're over the age of 65, and you're eligible if you live in a long-term care facility," Dr. Walensky says. "And, you're eligible if you're over the age of 18 and you have underlying medical conditions or you live or work in a high-risk place. So, all of those groups are currently eligible for a booster vaccine."
The Moderna booster will be a 50 microgram shot, half the original 100 microgram dose recommended for the first two shots in the series.
Americans can also now choose which booster to receive, selecting from either the Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
"My impression is that most people will have done very well with the initial vaccine that they got and may express a preference very much for the original vaccine series they got, having done very well," Dr. Walensky says. "There may be people who might prefer another vaccine over the one they received, and the current CDC recommendations now make that possible."
Switching vaccines may be especially effective for people who originally received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
A recently released NIH study on mixing and matching booster doses found volunteers who got their first shot of the J & J vaccine and then switched to Moderna for their booster had a 76-fold boost in their antibody levels, compared to a 4-fold boost in the volunteers who stuck with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for both shots.
Health officials are not recommending one vaccine booster over another, and they say all 3 vaccine boosters are effective at raising antibody levels.
They also caution no vaccine, not even a booster, provides 100% protection.
"So, even after you boost, it remains important for us to remain smart about our prevention strategies, while we still have 93% of our counties with moderate to high community transmission," Dr. Walensky says.
White House officials say boosters are free and will be available at 80,000 vaccine providers nationwide.
To search for providers in your area, visit vaccines.gov and type in your zip code.