Americans are set to receive a booster shot for COVID-19 to “maximize vaccine-induced protection,” according to a group of top U.S. health officials. Speaking on Wednesday, the officials said the decision follows an analysis of new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which believes that protection from the disease diminishes over time.
The health officials, who include CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, advisor to the Biden administration on COVID, said they are prepared to offer boosters to all Americans starting the week of September 20, if the boosters receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The boosters would be given eight months after Americans received their second dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
The guidelines do not however apply to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, as there is not enough data to support the position. The one-shot vaccine received emergency use authorization later than the other vaccines, reported the Daily Wire.
“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 said. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
According to the New York Times, the CDC data released on Wednesday shows that while the vaccines “remain highly effective against hospitalizations, the bulwark they provide against infection with the virus has weakened” in the months since people received their second dose of the vaccine.
Stat News reported that health officials pointed to data showing that both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are “no longer protecting as well against mild and moderate Covid-19 infections as evidence that ‘could’ signal a decline in protection against serious disease.”
While the data may be alarming, there is little explanation why efficacy toward the virus could be dropping. The Times suggested that the drop may be the result of “waning immunity, a drop in precautions like wearing masks, or the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.” The Washington Post suggests that officials pointed to a loss of efficacy to the disease over time and to the spread of the Delta variant, which first emerged in India. The Delta variant accounts for more than 98% of sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States.
Despite the push for booster shots, not every expert is onboard with the plan. Dr. Celine Grounder, an NYU professor who previously worked with the Biden team, expressed skepticism toward the urgency in releasing the third shot.
“I do not understand the urgency of giving the general population additional doses of COVID vaccine at this time,” she said. “They remain highly protective vs hospitalization & death.”
She added that there are categories of people who may need an additional dose of the vaccine, like those who suffer from immunocompromised systems, nursing home residents, and those over the age of 80.
According to data, existing vaccines remain 80% effective against symptomatic infections, and are at least 90% effective against hospitalizations, per the New York Times. Efficacy against infection remains at 55%.