(Reuters) – Current COVID-19 vaccines are not well-matched against the BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday, as its panel of outside experts meets to discuss changes to future booster doses.

The FDA, however, said booster shots protect against serious outcomes of COVID-19, compared with the two preliminary doses.

U.S. health officials in late March authorized a second booster dose of Moderna (MRNA.O) and Pfizer’s (PFE.N) vaccines for people aged 50 and older, citing data showing waning immunity and risks posed by Omicron variants of the virus.

A health care worker points to a man wearing a protective face mask while waiting in line to receive one of the available first, second and booster doses of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at the L.A. Care Health Plan free testing and vaccination site at the First African Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 29, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“This discussion today is a much larger discussion – it’s a discussion for what do we do about the entire population, and what do we do when we think the virus has evolved further,” said Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

A fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine lowered rates of COVID-19 among the elderly but the protection against infection appeared short-lived, a large study from Israel found on Tuesday.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

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