(WASHINGTON) — The Biden administration is prepared to begin rolling out booster shots for many Americans the week of Sept. 20, the nation’s top health officials announced Wednesday, citing data that show the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 diminishes over time.
In a joint statement by the US Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others, the officials cited the threat of the delta variant and noted “we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease.”
Health care workers and nursing home residents will be first in line.
“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,” the officials wrote. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
The CDC has long maintained that the vast majority of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. There is evidence though that the numbers of vaccinated hospitalizations is growing, particularly for health care workers and nursing home residents who received their shots eight months ago.
“We are prepared to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose. At that time, the individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors, will likely be eligible for a booster,” according to the federal statement.
For now, the upcoming boosters will be aimed at people who received the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only. But officials say they anticipate authorizing boosters for people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccines too. The first J&J vaccines weren’t administered until March, and the Biden administration says it expects more data on the effectiveness of that vaccine in a few weeks.
The administration says vaccines are still working and are the best assurances against severe illness or death.
“Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all,” the officials wrote.
Among those signing the statement were CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, FDA Administrator Dr. Janet Woodcock, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murth and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.