On Wednesday, US public health officials and medical experts announced in a joint statement that booster doses of Covid-19 vaccine will be offered this fall, once authorized by the FDA and signed off by the CDC. Rollout for the additional shots would begin as early as September 20.
After analyzing recent data regarding the vaccines’ efficacy and durability, health officials concluded that the best way to maximize the two-dose vaccines’ protection would be through an additional booster shot 8 months after receiving the second dose.
“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,” health officials said in their statement.
Last week, the FDA amended its emergency use authorizations for the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines to allow some people with compromised immune systems to get third doses. This change specifically targeted patients whose immune systems have been unable to mount adequate responses against the virus, even after having been fully vaccinated. According to the CDC, fully-vaccinated immunocompromised people have accounted for a large proportion of hospitalized “breakthrough cases” in the wake of the highly-transmissible delta variant.
Currently, the additional dose is only being recommended for those who received one of the two-dose vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna. However, health officials anticipate booster shots for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely be necessary.
“We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine. Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well,” read the joint statement.
Next month, the first people to receive the initial booster doses will likely be the same population who received the first doses of the vaccine back in December: health care providers, nursing home residents and the elderly. The Biden administration also announced plans to prioritize residents of long-term care facilities.
“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. We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it,” read the joint statement.
The joint announcement from the nation’s leading health experts comes at a time when the government is still trying to tackle gaps in vaccination rates across the country. On Wednesday, Pope Francis released a public announcement, urging people to get vaccinated in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus and the highly-contagious delta variant.
“Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. And helping the majority of people to do so is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for our families and friends, and love for all peoples,” he said in the short video.
The pontiff, who is 84, received his vaccine back in March.
“Thanks to God’s grace and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another,” he said.