Covid NJ: 4th COVID Vaccines May Be Closer, But Could Come At Cost For Some

Source: New Jersey Patch

Many Americans could soon become eligible for a second COVID-19 booster shot. But with federal regulations set to review applications from Moderna and Pfizer, vaccines for the virus could come with an out-of-pocket cost for the first time.

The Biden administration requested $22.5 billion in immediate funding to battle COVID, which would help providers continue to offer free vaccines, tests and treatments. Congress didn’t include it in the $1.5 trillion spending bill that Biden signed into law March 15, setting up near expirations for funding that has assisted uninsured patients during the pandemic. Read more: NJ COVID Testing, Treatment Sites Lose Federal Funding

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention only recommends an extra shot —- fourth of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or a third dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot —- for people with weakened immune systems who carry an increased risk of severe COVID illness or death.

But Pfizer and Moderna submitted applications in hopes to widen the eligibility for a fourth COVID shot. Pfizer’s shot would become available to people 65 and older. Moderna requested that federal regulators authorize its COVID vaccine for all adults, but the company is “flexible” to regulators determining eligibility, CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC. The Food and Drug Administration will review both for emergency-use authorization.

But considerations for a second booster put nations such as the United States and Israel at odds with the World Health Organization. The WHO acknowledges the effectiveness of COVID boosters but says the priority should be to get the world access to the primary vaccination series in order to end the pandemic.

Pfizer and Moderna both examined data from Israel — one of the few countries to offer a fourth COVID vaccine dose to anyone. An analysis of Israeli Ministry of Health records featured 1.1 million people 60 and older with no known history of COVID infection. The data showed rates of confirmed infections were two times lower and rates for severe illness four times lower for people who received an additional shot at least four months after their first booster.

“In general, it’s too early to recommend a fourth dose, except for those who are immune compromised,” Dr. Paul Goepfert, professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told ABC News. A fourth dose for people younger than 65 won’t be considered until “the beginning of fall, end of summer,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top coronavirus advisor.

People who need COVID vaccinations or the booster should get them by April 5. That’s when the federal uninsured program will stop accepting new claims for the shots because of insufficient funds.

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