The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined a plan for Americans who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines to get a booster shot eight months after receiving their second doses, starting Sept. 20.
Health care workers, nursing home residents and other older adults who were vaccinated early will be first in line, starting then, contingent on authorization by federal regulators. “We are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” officials of several federal agencies said in a prepared statement.
“Here’s what you need to know: If you are fully vaccinated, you still have a high degree of protection from the worst outcomes of Covid-19, severe disease hospitalization and death,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said at a White House briefing.
“We are not recommending that you go out and get a booster today. Instead, starting the week of Sept. 20,” he added, but that fully vaccinated adults should “begin getting their booster shots eight months after their second shot of an mRNA vaccine.”
Protection conferred by the vaccines against severe disease, hospitalization and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among high-risk groups who were vaccinated early, the officials said. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine may also require additional doses. But that vaccine was not rolled out until March 2021, and a plan to provide boosters for those individuals will be made after reviewing new data expected over next few weeks, officials said.
Some experts immediately pushed back against the decision, saying only some older adults and people with weakened immune systems needed extra protection. The World Health Organization has asked that wealthy countries defer distributing booster shots until the end of September.
“We will also continue to expand our efforts to increase the supply of vaccines for other countries, building further on the more than 600 million doses we have already committed to donate globally,” federal officials said.
Before Americans can begin to receive boosters, the Food and Drug Administration must first authorize a third dose of the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must review the evidence and make recommendations.
Federal officials plan to begin by offering booster shots directly to residents of long-term care facilities, since the vaccines were distributed to this population early in the rollout and the virus poses a particular threat to the elderly.
“We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it,” federal officials said.