After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a third Covid-19 shot for immunocompromised individuals last week — to affect around 2.7 million people — a collection of federal health departments and the Biden administration are now preparing for the rollout of booster shots for all vaccinated Americans beginning Sept. 20. The Wednesday announcement comes as the delta variant has caused another wave of increased Covid-19 infections nationwide; Aug. 19 reported 252,369 new cases, the highest since Jan. 9, 2021.
The boosters are to be administered eight months after the second shot and will begin once the FDA officially approves both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Currently, Covid-19 vaccines are administered under emergency use authorization from the FDA. Officials have noted Pfizer is expected to pass full approval in the coming weeks.
The U.S. booster strategy is slated to look somewhat like the initial vaccine rollout — first offered to healthcare and nursing home workers, and older Americans, before opening to other age groups.
Other countries already have begun administering additional shots, including in France, Germany and Israel — the latter of which has been given Pfizer boosters to a million older individuals over the last five months.
Just after the early Wednesday morning announcement, the World Health Organization questioned the strategy as a majority of the world’s population does not have access to the vaccine. WHO’s director called vaccine injustice a “shame on all humanity,” the Washington Post reported.
The organization’s chief scientist concluded existing data does not indicate boosters are necessary.
Road to approval
Monday, Aug. 16, Pfizer submitted paperwork stateside for a third shot, which would help increase antibodies to fight the SARS-CoV 2 virus. The pharmaceutical company noted the efficacy of the vaccine — which tops out at 96% after receiving dose two — drops to 83.7% four months after a second dose. Patients in its trial received the third dose eight or nine months after their second shot.
Johnson & Johnson still is expecting results from a two-dose clinical trial before the FDA considers boosters. J&J hasn’t filed its paperwork yet for full FDA approval for its one-dose vaccination but has announced plans to do so by the end of the year.
According to the Associated Press, Moderna’s president, Stephen Hoge, expressed surprise at the number of breakthrough cases — individuals infected by Covid-19 despite being vaccinated — seen within six months of inoculation. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported breakthrough cases amount to 0.1% of 133 million people vaccinated in 44 states through August, reported the Wall Street Journal. That percentage could increase, since people who are asymptomatic Covid-19 carriers may not get tested.
“I think that suggests we are going to need booster vaccines to get through the winter,” Hoge told the AP.
The delta variant is highly infectious, spreading to six people for every one infected. It has been disseminating nationwide since July and quickly dominated other Covid strains, now making up 90% of cases, according to the CDC. Health officials have said more data on how vaccines hold up against the delta variant is being gathered.
“We are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” officials said at the Wednesday press conference.
To date, however, the CDC has maintained vaccines have proven to lessen Covid-19 symptoms and prevent hospitalizations and, more importantly, death.
More than 168 million Americans — half of the population — have been vaccinated in the United States.
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