United States public health officials are expected to recommend that Americans get a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine eight months after receiving their second dose. An official announcement is expected as early as this week, according to several individuals speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations with various news media outlets.
This news comes on the heels of an announcement last week recommending a third dose to some groups of immunosuppressed people. Biden administration officials are hoping an additional inoculation will help slow the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant that is causing a surge in cases and deaths worldwide.
The third dose will be available to Americans regardless of age, but will only be available once the Food and Drug Administration formally approves a booster vaccine—the first of which is expected to be Pfizer-BioNTech, reports Zeke Miller for the Associated Press. Pressure has been mounting as the Delta variant and waning vaccine efficacy are leading to more “breakthrough infections” for fully-vaccinated people.
“Vaccination is our most effective means of preventing Covid-19 infection—especially severe disease and hospitalization—and its profound impact on protecting lives is indisputable. Still, with the continuing threat of the Delta variant and possible emergence of other variants in the future, we must remain vigilant against this highly contagious virus,” said Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, in a statement.
Pfizer and BioNTech submitted their trial data to the FDA for approval last Monday, noting: "Given the high levels of immune responses observed, a booster dose given within 6 to 12 months after the primary vaccination schedule may help maintain a high level of protection against Covid-19.”
The decision comes after months of research and discussion, including looking at countries that had early and widespread vaccination efforts, like Isreal, Meredith Wadman reports for Science magazine. Americans vaccinated last winter, including frontline healthcare workers, essential workers, and older people, could be among the first to receive the third jab, reports Sharon LaFraniere for the New York Times. According to administration officials, the booster could be available as early as mid-September.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins said Sunday that the decision to offer coronavirus booster shots to Americans this fall could be made in the next couple of weeks, Hope Yen reports for the Associated Press.
“There is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane in its effectiveness,” Collins told AP. “And delta is a nasty one for us to try to deal with. The combination of those two means we may need boosters, maybe beginning first with health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward.”
Officials say fully vaccinated Americans—those who have recieved two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—are still highly protected. The recommendation will apply to those who received the two-dose mRNA vaccines. Though officials are still waiting on clinical trial results, they suspect Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients may also benefit from a third jab, according to the New York Times.
Around 65 percent of Americans have gotten at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 58 percent are fully vaccinated and eligible for the booster. But in low-income countries, less than 2 percent of people have received a single shot. Healthcare officials underscore that over 99 percent of new Covid-19 cases—which haven’t been this high since January 2021—are amoung unvaccinated people.
The dramatic vaccine gap between high- and low-income countries has caused the World Health Organization to call on wealthy counties like the U.S. to pause booster shot rollouts until more people have access to a first dose. Biden adminstration officials maintain that the country has enough supply for both domestic boosters and international distribution.