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What to Know about White House’s COVID-19 Booster Plan

Americans are eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna booster eight months after second dose

August 18, 2021

U.S. adults will be eligible for a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine eight months after their second shot, the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team announced today.

During a press briefing , the nation’s public health leaders said the decision comes in an effort to “stay one step ahead of the virus” and after a careful review of vaccine data. Booster doses will be available starting the week of September 20, officials said.

The available vaccines continue to work well to prevent severe cases and death from COVID-19, but public health officials are concerned about declining protection over time, especially against the hyper-transmissible Delta variant.

“The bottom line is that we are prepared for boosters, and we will hit the ground running” said Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator.

Here’s what you need to know about the booster dose:

Rationale for the booster:  The available mRNA vaccines continue to provide protection against hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19, but effectiveness against infection and severe cases may decrease over time. Increasing antibody levels from a booster dose offers additional protection, especially against the Delta variant.

Research results:  A New York study from May 3–July 25, 2021 found that overall age-adjusted vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization in New York was relatively stable (91.9%–95.3%). The overall age-adjusted vaccine effectiveness against infection for all New York adults declined from 91.7 percent to 79.8.

Another observational report about nursing home residents indicated that two doses of mRNA vaccines were 74.7 percent effective against infection among nursing home residents early during the vaccination program, but declined to 53.1 percent during June and July as the Delta variant spread.

Timing:  The booster recommendation still requires federal regulatory approval. Starting the week of September 20, fully vaccinated individuals would be eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster eight months after their second shot.

Provider network:  Details about how the nation will administer booster doses to nearly 170 million fully vaccinated individuals have not been outlined. White House officials said doses would be available and free in local communities, with about 80,000 providers in the U.S. administering doses.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine: Federal officials are studying data about the need for a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but said it is likely a booster dose will be recommended.

The booster announcement comes alongside an ongoing effort to encourage people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine to make an appointment. As the Delta variant spreads across the country, the large majority of severe cases and COVID-19 deaths are among unvaccinated individuals, officials said.

“Getting vaccinated can keep you out of the hospital,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Getting vaccinated can save your life.”

Information about the COVID-19 vaccine is available online.

HAP will continue to monitor COVID-19 public health developments and provide updates to members. For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.