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Federal Health Agencies Announce COVID-19 Booster Shot Plan

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Federal Health Agencies Announce COVID-19 Booster Shot Plan

The main U.S. federal agencies responsible for public health — including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and National Institutes of Health (NIH) — have announced a plan for COVID-19 vaccine booster doses starting on September 20, as outlined in a joint statement from the agencies.

Under the plan, U.S. residents will be eligible for a third dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine starting eight months after their second dose was given. Due to the eligibility rules for these vaccines earlier this year, the first people who will be eligible for booster shots largely include older people, health care workers, and nursing home residents.

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“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,” the statement reads. “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.”

Majority of severe COVID-19 cases occurring in unvaccinated people

The statement also emphasizes the ongoing urgency getting a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for eligible people who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated. The vast majority of cases of severe COVID-19 that require hospitalization, as well as nearly all fatal cases of COVID-19, occur in unvaccinated people. And the more contagious Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 — which is now the main variant in circulation in the United States — has been shown to cause a higher degree of “breakthrough” infections in vaccinated people compared with earlier versions of the virus. This means that unvaccinated people increasingly pose a threat to vaccinated people, as well as to people who aren’t eligible for the vaccines or who have compromised immune systems that make them especially vulnerable to COVID-19 — a group that includes many people who have received an organ or stem cell transplant, or are undergoing cancer treatment. Diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, HIV, and a range of other conditions may also leave people more susceptible to COVID-19 and other infections.

According to the statement, people who received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine are also expected to be eligible for a booster shot in the future. Since this vaccine wasn’t widely given in the United States until March 2021, data on whether people’s immune response to this vaccine diminishes lags behind data on the Modern and Pfizer vaccines. Once data is available in the next few weeks, there will be an updated plan for booster shots for people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources,” the joint statement concludes. “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.”

Want to learn more about coronavirus and diabetes? Read our latest COVID-19 updates.

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips

Quinn Phillips on social media

A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree from Harvard University. He is a former Editorial Assistant for Diabetes Self-Management and has years of experience covering diabetes and related health conditions. Phillips writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.

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