Everything You Need to Know About COVID-19 Booster Shots

  • Federal health officials announced that people in the United States vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna-NIAID can get booster doses as early as this month.
  • The news comes as the Delta variant has led to a major surge in COVID-19 cases.
  • Health officials said they expect people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will need an additional dose, but they are waiting for results from the company’s two-dose clinical trial.

People in the United States fully vaccinated with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will be eligible for a booster dose 8 months after their second dose, federal health officials announced August 18.

This comes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus is driving a surge in cases and hospitalizations in the United States, the vast majority in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.

“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” according to a statement signed by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other U.S. health leaders.

“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 statement says.

Booster doses will be available as early as the week of Sept. 20.

While health officials said they expect people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to need an additional dose, they are waiting for the company’s two-dose clinical trial results.

Details of the plan were released during a White House COVID-19 press briefing on August 18.

Higher-risk populations will be first in line for a booster. This includes residents of long-term-care facilities, healthcare workers, and other frontline workers.

After that, boosters would be made available similar to the initial rollout, with older people likely vaccinated sooner.

Certain immunocompromised people are already eligible for a third dose now that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) modifiedTrusted Source the emergency use authorizations (EUA) last week for the mRNA vaccines.

This is not considered a “booster” for this group but an “additional dose” because many people with weakened immune systems don’t generate a robust immune response from the standard regimen.

The Biden administration’s new policy hinges on an independent review of the safety and efficacy of boosters by the FDA and the vaccine advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Even as federal officials move forward with its booster plan for people in the United States, some experts caution that data on the need for boosters at this time is limited.

They add that more effort should also be made to reach the unvaccinated, both in the United States and worldwide.