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FDA Backs Boosters, Travel Restrictions Lift, and More Coronavirus News

The FDA backs additional doses, international travel restrictions end, and vaccine mandate rules progress. Here’s what you should know:

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FDA panel signs off on additional Moderna and Johnson & Johnson doses

Today, an FDA advisory committee recommended a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Many fewer Americans received this vaccine than either of the mRNA shots, so there’s less data overall, but the group has recommended that a second dose be available to recipients 18 and older two months after their initial vaccine. On Thursday, the same committee unanimously recommended booster shots for recipients of Moderna’s vaccine who are 65 and older or are part of several other vulnerable populations. The next step will be for a Centers for Disease Control advisory panel to discuss additional doses in meetings scheduled for next week. If they approve, distribution could start shortly thereafter.

The first boosters, third doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, were approved in the US in August, and in the time since, President Biden has touted additional shots as an effective way for vulnerable Americans to protect themselves. But boosters have not been without controversy, especially because so many countries around the world are still struggling to procure initial doses.

Pandemic travel constraints lift around the world

The Biden administration announced today that, starting November 8, it will lift travel restrictions for fully vaccinated visitors from 33 countries, including a number of European nations, China, and Iran. There will be stricter requirements for travelers coming from places other than these approved countries. Next month, the US will also lift restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers entering the country from Canada or Mexico by land. A different border policy will still apply to migrants.

Outside the US, many other countries are also lifting stringent travel requirements that have been in place for much of the pandemic. Australian officials have said that vaccinated travelers coming to Sydney will no longer need to quarantine starting next month. After 19 months, India is about to start allowing foreign tourists. And Bali and Malaysia will also be opening to vaccinated visitors soon.

Government vaccine mandate rules are in final review despite pushback

Last month, President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write rules regarding company vaccine mandates, and earlier this week the agency showed its proposal to the Office of Management and Budget for final review. A number of state attorneys general have said they’ll oppose the measures, but many businesses have already implemented their own protocols in accordance with the president’s executive order. Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, for instance, recently upheld their employee mandates even though both are based in Texas, where the governor has banned such policies. And another aerospace company, Boeing, recently joined the ranks of organizations requiring workers to get their shots.

Vaccine mandates have proven to be an effective way to push many who are hesitant to go get their shots, but they’re not a foolproof solution. Both the mandates themselves and attempts at being exempt from them have created legal confusion. And while experts have been trying to figure out what kind of messaging will work best for getting as many people as possible vaccinated, so far there’s no obvious answer.

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