U.S. health officials on Wednesday formally recommended booster shots for fully vaccinated individuals after 8 months of their vaccine series.
In a joint statement attributable to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and White House COVID-19 Response team, public health officials admitted they are beginning to see “evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease” in those who have been vaccinated:
Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout.
The statement recommended booster shots, which they said are “needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
The officials said they developed a plan to offer the booster shots as early as this fall, pending an FDA evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines, as well as approval from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
“We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose,” the joint statement read.
“At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster,” it continued.
Officials added that they will “begin efforts to deliver booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities at that time, given the distribution of vaccines to this population early in the vaccine rollout and the continued increased risk that COVID-19 poses to them.”
The health officials said they are still waiting to view data on if booster shots are needed for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but they anticipate it will, in fact, be the case.
“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape,” they continued, vowing to “follow the science on a daily basis” and modify the plan as needed.
The health officials emphasized their efforts to continue to get as many people vaccinated as possible and “ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources.”
The news follows reports of CDC data showing a “worrying drop” in vaccine efficacy over time, prompting the Biden administration to take action.
Just over 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s August 17 data.