A pharmacist delivers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to a customer at a pharmacy in Livonia, Michigan, United States, on Tuesday, August 17, 2021.
Emily Elconin | Bloomberg | Getty Images
The United States will begin distributing Covid-19 booster vaccinations on a large scale next month as new data shows vaccine protection wears off over time, US health officials said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
It is now “very clear” that immunity declines after the first two doses, and with the dominance of the delta variant, “we see evidence of decreased protection against mild and moderate disease,” according to the CDC. signed declaration Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, the White House Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other US health leaders. “Based on our latest assessment, current protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death could decline in the coming months, especially for those at higher risk or who were vaccinated during the earlier stages of vaccination.”
As a result, U.S. authorities are preparing to offer booster shots to all eligible Americans from the week of September 20, beginning 8 months after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, officials said. While they said recipients of the Johnson & Johnson single vaccine will likely need booster vaccinations, they are waiting for more dates in the next few weeks before making a formal recommendation.
“With this data, we will also keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster syringes,” officials said.
The plan is still subject to FDA approval and a formal recommendation from a CDC vaccine advisory committee, according to US officials.
The announcement comes ahead of a Covid press conference at the White House on Wednesday, where federal health officials are expected to further outline their plan for boosters. President Joe Biden is expected to speak about the U.S. efforts after the briefing, the White House told reporters on Tuesday.
The decision to recommend booster vaccinations comes as the public becomes increasingly concerned about the Delta variant and an increase in breakthrough cases – infections in fully vaccinated individuals. It marks a departure from previous comments by U.S. health officials who said in recent months that fully vaccinated Americans did not need a booster at this point.
U.S. officials changed their embassy to boosters in the past few days as cases continued to rise. Fauci said Thursday that everyone is “likely” to need a booster at some point. On Friday, federal officials approved the administration of booster shots to Americans with compromised immune systems, which include cancer and HIV patients, as well as people who have had organ transplants.
The director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, who also signed the statement, said Tuesday that new Covid data, including from Israeli health officials, had caused US health leaders to reconsider their position on vaccine boosters. Israel on Monday released new data showing a reduction in the effectiveness of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine against serious illness in people 65 and over who were fully vaccinated in January or February.
There are similar trends in vaccine effectiveness in the United States, Collins said. He said the surge in breakthrough cases could be due to a combination of the rapidly spreading Delta variant and the deterioration in Covid vaccine protection over time.
“Although at the moment it still looks like our vaccine protection is working really well,” he said. “But we don’t want to wait until it’s oh, too late.”
The move to recommend boosters is likely to trigger criticism, especially since a large part of the world population has not even received a dose of a Covid vaccine.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization urged rich nations to stop distributing booster vaccinations until at least the end of September to allow poorer countries to vaccinate their populations with the first rounds of vaccination. The application is part of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ plan to vaccinate 40% of the world’s population by December.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Collaborating Center for National and Global Health Law, called the US booster shot plan “a slap in the face” of the international health agency.
“There is a better way to create a win-win situation,” he said in a telephone interview. “We should only empower our health workers and vulnerable people. At the same time, Biden should undertake a bold campaign to vaccinate the world, including significantly increased donations and an increase in vaccine production. “
“In this way we are doing good to America and good to the world. It is in our national interest to stop the development of even more dangerous varieties,” he added.
Speaking at a press conference at the White House Tuesday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government believes it can empower the American people while making sure the rest of the world gets vaccinated.
“We believe this is a wrong decision. We can do both,” said Psaki. “The United States is by far the largest contributor to the global fight against Covid. We will continue to be the vaccine arsenal around the world. We also have enough supplies and had planned long enough should a refresher be required for those eligible. “Population.”
Once the booster is approved, nursing home residents, health care providers and the elderly – the first groups to be vaccinated in December and January – will likely be prioritized for additional vaccinations, Collins said Tuesday. He said “ideally” people should stick with the same manufacturer that they got their first two doses from.
“But if for some reason you don’t have access to it, get the other one,” he said. “Again, as a scientist, I would be more comfortable fixing our plans on real dates, and that means sticking to the same type of vaccine that you had to start with.”