With Rise of COVID-19 Delta Variant Cases, White House Announces Plans for Vaccine Booster Shots
Sandra Lindsay,Photo by Mark Lennihan – Pool/Getty Images

The Biden-Harris Administration has announced plans to get more people vaccinated against COVID-19, including booster shots. It comes amid a surge in cases linked to the Delta variant of the virus. 

President Joe Biden spoke Wednesday from the White House, stating that the latest data confirms that the nation is still “in a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

“While we’re starting to see initial signs that cases may be declining in a few places, cases are still rising, especially among the unvaccinated,” said Biden. “There are still 85 million Americans who are eligible to get vaccinated who remain unvaccinated and at real risk.”

The federal government is prepared to offer booster shots for people across America beginning the week of Sept. 20 (or starting 8 months after an individual’s latest completed dose). At that time, individuals who were fully vaccinated earliest in the vaccination rollout, including many health care providers, seniors in nursing homes and others in long-term care facilities, will likely be eligible for a booster. 

Public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released a joint statement about vaccines and booster shots.

It reads in part: “The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant. Recognizing that many vaccines are associated with a reduction in protection over time, and acknowledging that additional vaccine doses could be needed to provide long lasting protection, we have been analyzing the scientific data closely from the United States and around the world to understand how long this protection will last and how we might maximize this protection.”

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The statement continues, “The available data make[s] 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. 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. For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”

The booster shots will be offered this fall, officials said, subject to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducting an independent evaluation and determination of their safety and effectiveness. This applies to a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Officials also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) one-dose vaccine.

“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 reads. “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.”

To date, COVID-19 has caused more than 600,000 deaths in the U.S., with communities of color disproportionately impacted. Globally, data shows more than four million people have died. 

“Quite frankly, it’s a tragedy,” said President Biden. “There are people who are dying and who will die who didn’t have to. So, please, if you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do it now.  Do it now. It could save your life, and it could save the lives of those you love.”

Biden also announced a series of other COVID-19 actions being taken by the White House, including vaccine requirements for workers in nursing homes who serve Medicare and Medicaid recipients. Additionally, the Department of Education is being directed to use all available tools to safely open schools. Biden also reiterated that the Administration has extended plans to continue fully reimbursing states for eligible COVID-19 emergency response costs through Dec. 31, 2021.   

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