If the Food and Drug Administration grants the request, millions of fully-vaccinated Americans will become eligible for an extra injection.
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Credit: Getty Images / Jo Imperio

While certain groups of people are already eligible, most U.S. adults are still waiting to receive a COVID-19 booster — but their availability might be closer than ever before. And when you're living in a seemingly perpetual pandemic, moving even a centimeter forward can be cause for celebration. (Hey, it's the little things.)

On Tuesday, Pfizer-BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize their coronavirus booster shot for those 18 years and older. This comes just two months after the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) of the Pfizer booster for people 65 years of age and older as well as those particularly vulnerable to the virus (e.g. folks with underlying medical conditions and/or whose job puts them at an increased risk of complications of COVID-19). If the FDA does in fact grant the request — which, according to The New York Times, it's expected to do in the coming weeks — approximately 181 million fully vaccinated adults will be eligible for an extra injection well before the holiday season (including increased indoor gatherings, expanded social circles, etc.) gets into full swing. (Related: How to Safely Celebrate the Holiday Season, According to New CDC Guidelines)

As part of its petition, Pfizer is submitting the early results of a Phase 3 trial involving more than 10,000 participants, which suggests the third dose of its vaccine is both safe and effective. More specifically, the study found that its booster could restore protection against symptomatic infection to about 95 percent, even when the highly-transmissible Delta variant was the dominant strain, according to CNN.

While the study has yet to be peer-reviewed or published, such findings could be especially helpful in Pfizer's campaign to expand booster eligibility, as research shows that the protection afforded by its two-dose vaccine decreases from 88 to 47 percent over the course of six months after the second shot. And the same has been shown to be true for the other two inoculations available in the U.S. (Moderna and Johnson and Johnson). That being said, it is important to note that all three vaccines continue to offer strong protection against severe COVID-19 illness and death for months+ after the second dose of the Moderna and Pfizer (mRNA) shots and the first of Johnson and Johnson. And being that officials recently said its okay to mix and match boosters, the approval of Pfizer's third shot could prove particularly beneficial in keeping as many Americans as possible safe from COVID-19 — that is, of course, if the FDA grants the company's request for expanded eligibility. And even if it does, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must officially recommend the shot before it can be administered.

At the moment, however, both organizations have already given the green light for Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson and Johnson booster shots to be given to certain populations. Those who are 65-years-old and older or at increased risk of severe COVID-19 due to medical condition(s), living conditions, or work can get a booster six months after receiving the second dose of the Moderna of Pfizer vaccines. As for all the folks who originally got the J&J vaccine? They can receive a booster as long as it's been two months or more since receiving their first inoculation, even if they're not in one of these special populations. (Up next: Is It Safe to Get a COVID-19 Booster and a Flu Shot at the Same Time?)

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. As updates about coronavirus COVID-19 continue to evolve, it's possible that some information and recommendations in this story have changed since initial publication. We encourage you to check in regularly with resources such as the CDC, the WHO, and your local public health department for the most up-to-date data and recommendations.