The Biden administration will announce as soon as Wednesday that most eligible Americans who received the COVID-19 vaccine will need a booster shot eight months after getting their second injection, The Associated Press and The Washington Post reported Monday night, citing at least four people familiar with the decision. U.S. health officials have for months said the approved vaccines remain effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death, but new data from Israel and elsewhere suggest the Delta variant and perhaps the passage of time have rendered the vaccines less effective.
"I think Delta changed everything," one person familiar with the decision tells the Post.
The Food and Drug Administration approved a booster shot for immunocompromised people last week, and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said Sunday that the first groups offered booster shots next would probably be "health care providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward" to older Americans and other groups more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Those groups also got first shot at the vaccine, putting them closer to the eight-month window.
"There is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane in its effectiveness," Collins said. "And Delta is a nasty one for us to try to deal with. The combination of those two means we may need boosters." The shots would not be offered until at least mid-September, when the FDA is expected to approve Pfizer/BioNTech's application for boosters. More than a million Americans have already gotten unapproved booster shots.
The World Health Organization has asked wealthier countries to hold off on offering booster shots until at least October, arguing it is more ethical and effective to share doses with countries that need vaccine supply. The Biden administration, which has begun sending more than 110 vaccine doses to those countries, said it has enough supply still to deliver boosters to Americans if that's what health official recommend.