Health Care

White House: No plans to change definition of ‘fully vaccinated’

Julia Nikhinson

The Biden administration said Wednesday it has no plans to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” against the coronavirus to include getting a booster shot. 

“Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’ve received their primary series, that definition is not changing,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing. 

She said that the CDC is instead using the term “up to date” to encourage people to get boosters.

The definition is important for an array of vaccine requirements the administration has put forward. It means two shots of Pfizer or Moderna will remain enough to satisfy Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandates for large employers and for health workers.

“Someone is considered fully vaccinated if they have received their primary series of vaccines, so if you think about the different requirements that you mentioned, travel, OSHA, CMS rules and other examples, that has not changed and we do not have any plans to change that,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said.  

The announcement from the White House comes after weeks of questions about the definition and officials saying they were reviewing the issue. 

Many health experts have urged the administration to change the definition, noting the importance of booster shots in protecting against infection from the omicron variant. 

The Biden administration said it is still urging all adults to get booster shots, it just is not changing the definition for purposes of the mandates. 

Zients noted that two doses still provides strong protection against severe disease, though three doses are needed to provide better protection against getting infected at all. 

“I do think it’s really important to recognize the vast majority of hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated Americans and completing the primary vaccination series is clearly a critical step to prevent severe outcomes, with boosters, as Dr. Walensky said, giving the highest level of protection,” Zients said. “So we will encourage everybody to get vaccinated, and when eligible boosted.”

Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CNN in December that in his “personal opinion” it was a matter of “when, not if” the definition would change. 

He said that the definition aside, “certainly, when you want to talk about what optimal protection is, I don’t think anybody would argue that optimal protection is going to be with a third shot.”

Tags Anthony Fauci booster Booster shots Coronavirus coronavirus vaccine COVID-19 COVID-19 vaccine Jeff Zients Rochelle Walensky

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