Story at a glance
- White House public health experts will make Pfizer and Moderna booster shots available for fully vaccinated Americans the week of Sept. 20.
- More data will be required to approve a booster for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- Growing scientific literature suggests the first series of COVID-19 vaccinations exhibit dwindling antibody levels over time, especially against new variants.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday a new timeline to offer booster shots to the American public by Sept. 20 to combat further spread of the delta variant.
Following approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), pharmaceutical companies and government entities alike are working to expand access to COVID-19 booster vaccinations as immunity cultivated from the first vaccination series wanes and the more contagious delta variant spreads.
U.S. health officials on the White House COVID-19 Response Team said during a press conference that the decision follows clinical data.
Individuals will be eligible for booster shots after a full dosage of the Pfizer or Moderna two-shot vaccine series.
“We are announcing our plan to stay ahead of this virus by being prepared to offer COVID-19 booster shots to fully vaccinated adults 18 years or older,” said Vivek Murthy. “This plan is pending the FDA conducting an independent evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence.”
Health care providers, nursing home residents and other seniors will be eligible first under the new plan.
Murthy added that Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients will likely need booster shots as well, but more data from the company’s single-shot vaccine will be available in the coming weeks.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky also presented data that vaccine efficacy dwindled among more vulnerable demographics, as well as against the delta variant.
Regardless, the same data suggested that the vaccine still protects against severe infections that could result in hospitalizations or fatalities.
Without a booster to fuel more antibodies and therefore more immunity, experts fear more severe infections as immunity wanes while colder months approach.
“Our top priority is to save lives and prevent infections,” Walensky said.