Reversing course on COVID-19 policy from just a few months prior, the Biden Administration is planning to announce a recommendation for most Americans to get vaccine booster shots, which could become available as soon as September.
According to the Washington Post’s Aug. 16 report, the administration’s experts on health and science believe that people will begin needing those COVID vaccine booster shots eight months after they were fully vaccinated.
The report noted that the official announcement could come as early as mid-August, marking what it called “a striking change from public statements by senior officials in recent months who had said it was far too soon to conclude that Americans would need booster shots.”
In fact, two federal entities overseeing the COVID-19 response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, put out what the newspaper characterized as “an unusual statement” in July on COVID vaccine booster shots, specifying, “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.”
CNN reported that Pfizer and BioNTech jointly submitted initial data on Aug. 16 to the FDA to support the use of a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Given the high levels of immune responses observed, a booster dose given within six to 12 months after the primary vaccination schedule may help maintain a high level of protection against COVID-19,” the companies said.
National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins also weighed in, noting in a TV interview that “data from Israel on vaccine effectiveness waning over time” demonstrated the need for the COVID booster shots, according to The Hill.
“In the Israeli data the people who got immunized in January are the ones that are now having more breakthrough cases,” he clarified. “Mostly of course these are symptomatic but not serious, but you’re starting to see a little bit of a trend towards some of those requiring hospitalization.”
The Post’s report noted that the delta variant’s rapid spread surprised experts and is complicating messaging around a booster shot rollout, as health officials are still working to convince whichever persuadable Americans remain to get a first vaccination dose.
It’s not just data from Israel that’s concerning: A Mayo Clinic study found that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine had fallen to 42% in July, though the vaccine was still deemed to be “highly effective against severe cases that could result in hospitalization.”
In another TV interview on Aug. 15, Collins indicated that booster shots—already recommended for immunocompromised people—could start with some segments of the population, like healthcare workers and people living in nursing homes, that were part of the initial U.S. vaccination efforts.