Covid vaccinations

A woman receives her first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at a vaccination clinic in March. A third dose booster shot was approved for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Public health officials and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans to begin COVID vaccine booster shots for fully vaccinated people with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines beginning the week of Sept. 20.

In a joint statement by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Dr. Janet Woodcock, Acting Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA); Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General and several others they laid out the reasoning for the needed additional dose.

The HHS said that COVID-19 vaccines continue to be effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death even against the widely circulating Delta variant. The statement went to say that the available data is clear that protection against the disease begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination and along with the Delta variant experts are seeing 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 statement read.

The HHS has developed a plan to begin offering the booster shots in the fall subject to FDA conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The third doses would begin the week of Sept. 20 and be given to people eight months after they received their second dose.

On Friday the Federal Food and Drug Administration authorized an additional COVID-19 Pfizer or Moderna vaccine dose for individuals whose immune systems are compromised.

People who were fully vaccinated early in the vaccine rollout, including health care workers, nursing home residents and seniors would be eligible for the booster first.

Boosters would also be distributed to vaccinated residents of long-term care facilities who are at high risk of COVID-19.

Health officials are still gathering information on booster shots for people vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Administration of the J&J vaccine did not begin in the U.S. until March 2021, and we expect more data on J&J in the next few weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed with a timely plan for J&J booster shots as well,” the statement read.

The HHS noted the urgency to vaccinate the unvaccinated in the United States and around the globe saying nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all.

“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. 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,” the statement read.

For more information visit the Health and Humans Services site at HHS.gov.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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