Who Is Eligible for COVID Booster Shot? Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer Uses Explained

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is likely to soon authorize booster doses for every vaccine but some people may be eligible before others, depending on the vaccine they received.

Booster doses of the three COVID-19 vaccines are required to fight the waning immunity of the inoculations and the Biden administration has been pushing for their widespread use. Booster doses are limited to high-risk Pfizer recipients and the same is likely going to be the case for those who received the Moderna shot, but it's possible Johnson & Johnson booster doses could be available for any adult who received the initial dose.

On Friday, an FDA advisory panel recommended the agency authorize booster doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine for anyone over the age of 18. An estimated 15 million people have received the single-shot inoculation, which is believed to be 81 percent effective at preventing hospitalizations, according to Johnson & Johnson.

Members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation and while not a binding policy, the FDA often follows the panel's recommendation.

pfizer moderna johnson and johnson booster
Johnson & Johnson's booster shot could become the first to be available to all recipients. Rufus Peoples receives his booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine during an Oakland County Health Department vaccination clinic at the Southfield Pavilion on August 24 in Southfield, Michigan. Emily Elconin/Getty Images

At the end of September, the FDA authorized booster shots of Pfizer's vaccine for people who are over the age of 65 or who are between the ages of 18 and 64 but are considered high risk for developing serious disease. The authorization was in line with the committee's recommendation.

On Thursday, the same advisory panel recommended booster shots of Moderna's vaccine be given to people who are over 65 or are considered vulnerable.

The FDA authorized Pfizer's booster dose just days after the panel made its recommendation and if it follows the same timeline for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, the decision could come next week.

However, the FDA's authorization of the shots doesn't mean people will immediately be able to go to their local clinic or drug store and get the booster. Along with receiving FDA authorization, the doses require a sign off from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC's vaccine advisory group plans to meet next week to make a decision about who should receive the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots.

Booster doses have become a controversial topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, largely due to vaccine inequity. While some countries have started administering third doses to their citizens, lower-income countries have struggled to vaccinate their most vulnerable populations. The World Health Organization has lambasted booster doses as sacrificing global safety for the sake of one country and a group of scientists, including two FDA officials, recommended against their use.

In a paper published in The Lancet in September, the authors voiced concerns that side-effects of boosters could continue to dissuade the vaccine-hesitant from getting inoculated. They pushed for the world to wait on boosters and focus vaccination efforts entirely on new inoculations, a move they argued would help bring an end to the pandemic faster than boosters.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been pushing for boosters. While he agrees that inoculating the world is vital to slowing the spread of the virus, he disagrees that it was impossible to help the global vaccination effort and provide Americans with a booster at the same time.

Although there have been stories of people getting boosters doses of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines, as of Friday, Pfizer's vaccine is the only one that's FDA-authorized and CDC-recommended.