COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are expected to be available for Americans starting late September – with health care workers, nursing home residents and other elderly people first in line, health officials said.
The plan laid out Wednesday by the Biden administration calls for a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine eight months after the second jab pending an independent evaluation by the Food and Drug Administration.
The third shots could begin the week of Sept. 20, US health officials said in a statement.
“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,” read the joint statement by Department of Health and Human Services.
People who received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will also “likely” need a booster shot as well, although additional data is needed, health officials said.
“With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well,” the statement continued.
Health officials said the vaccines authorized in the US are “remarkably effective” against COVID-19 in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death — including against the raging Delta variant.
But many vaccines have a reduction in protection over time and available data makes it “very clear” that US health officials are “starting to see evidence of reduced protection” against mild and moderate disease.
“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,” US health officials said. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
The plan could be modified if new information emerges.
“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,” the statement continued.
COVID-19 has killed more than 623,000 people in the US and more than 4.3 million people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Wednesday’s statement, attributed to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several other federal agency administrators, also stressed the “ongoing urgency” for unvaccinated Americans to get their shots.
“Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all,” health officials said. “We will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources.”