FDA exploring half dose vaccines to speed vaccination efforts

moderna half dose vaccines
Photo via Marco Verch/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will consider implementing a plan to allow a half dose of the Moderna vaccine to be administered in the nation’s ongoing vaccination efforts. The FDA’s meeting on this plan, sometime during the week of Jan. 4-8, comes as the U.S. fell far short of its December 2020 vaccination goals. 

As Politico reported, Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Moncef Slaoui told CBS’ Face the Nation on Jan. 3 that the Moderna vaccine can work with the same efficacy as a half dose vaccine. Slaoui asserted that two half doses in people between the ages of 18-55 give “identical immune response” to the recommended 100 microgram dose, but he said the final decision in acting on that evidence will rest with the FDA.

“It will be based on facts and data to immunize more people,” Slaoui said, with assurances that more vaccine doses will be produced. 

Slaoui confirmed that only Moderna was being considered for a vaccine half dose, according to CNN; the Pfizer vaccine is only a 30-microgram dose. 

As of Jan. 2, according to CDC reporting, just 4.22 million Americans had received the first of two vaccination doses, with just more than 13 million doses distributed. 

The New York Times reported that federal health officials are acknowledging the rollout is going slower than expected, with healthcare workers, nursing-home patients, and other long-term care facility residents being prioritized. 

Every state was granted an amount of the vaccine roughly in proportion to its population. West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota have administered the most doses per capita among states, and Kansas has delivered the fewest.

The Politico article notes that, according to federal officials, the U.S. will need to vaccinate about 80% of the population to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus. 

On another Jan. 3 morning interview show, Dr. Anthony Fauci recommended that the U.S. not deviate from delivering the Moderna vaccine as it was designed, even though it may speed up vaccination efforts. In other words, he doesn’t like the idea of a half dose vaccine.

“We know what the science tells us,” Fauci said. “So my feeling … is let’s do it the way the clinical trials have instructed us to do it. But let’s get more efficient into getting it into people’s arms.”

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Sources: Politico, CNN, CDC, New York Times

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