scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Is there another coronavirus booster shot in your future?

A pharmacist prepared a Pfizer-BioNTech adult COVID-19 vaccination booster in the Chelsea Senior Center in December 2021.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

With uncertainty swirling around the possible impact of the highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.2 in the United States, vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna have both asked the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize second boosters - or fourth shots - of their vaccines.

Here is a quick briefing, compiled from Globe wire and major media reports, on whether and when people might get additional jabs:

- The government is pondering what to do. The US Food and Drug Administration said Monday its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee would meet April 6 to discuss more booster shots. The committee of outside experts is expected to hold an “open, transparent discussion” to help the agency decide who should get boosters, when they should get them, and if the vaccines should be updated to address specific variants.


“Now is the time to discuss the need for future boosters as we aim to move forward safely, with COVID-19 becoming a virus like others such as influenza that we prepare for, protect against, and treat,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

The meeting, however, won’t address “product-specific applications,” the agency said.

- Two applications are on the table. Pfizer last week asked the FDA for emergency use authorization of its vaccine for people 65 and older who have already received one booster. Moderna followed a couple of days later with a broader request, asking the FDA to authorize its vaccine for a second booster for all adults. Moderna said it wanted to give the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health care providers flexibility in deciding who should get boosters and when they should get them.

The New York Times reported last week that the Pfizer application might see a speedy approval, but the prospects of the Moderna application weren’t as clear. The next step after FDA approval would be for CDC advisers and the CDC director to weigh in.


- The second boosters are intended to shore up waning immunity. A study released by the CDC last month showed protection waning after a booster shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The companies have also cited encouraging results from Israel, where second boosters have been administered to older people and health care workers.

The CDC has already recommended that many Americans with immune deficiencies get three shots as part of their initial series, followed by a fourth shot.

- Some are calling for the additional booster shots to be given now. “I’m a strong proponent of giving a second booster now,” Dr. Peter J. Hotez, a vaccine expert at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, told the Times. Others are being more cautious. “I think you’d want to have really convincing evidence that a second booster was needed and beneficial and we just don’t have that,” Dr. Jesse Goodman, a former chief FDA scientist, told National Public Radio. “I don’t think we know that a booster will not ultimately be required, but we’re just not there yet.”

- Debate over the need for more boosters comes against a backdrop of worry about the next chapter of the pandemic. In a number of Western European countries, COVID-19 cases are on the rise as the BA.2 variant takes hold, worrying some scientists who see the possibility of a similar resurgence here. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and an adviser to President Biden, struck a reassuring note Sunday, saying the country would likely see an uptick in cases, but he didn’t think it would turn into a surge.


- One possibility floated by some experts is that people could end up getting yearly boosters every fall. “Given how safe the vaccines are and how effective they are, I think it probably does make sense for people to get a booster, and the most convenient would be once a year,” Dr. Otto Yang, an infectious disease specialist at UCLA, told Kaiser Health News. If COVID-19 turns out to be seasonal, peaking in the winter, shots given in the fall would provide decent protection, he said.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.

Martin Finucane can be reached at