Federal health officials on Wednesday advised the more than 150 million Americans who've gotten two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that they should get a third shot starting Sept. 20.
But what about the 14 million who opted for the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine? "We anticipate vaccine boosters will likely be needed" for them, too, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said at a White House briefing. "We expect more data on J&J in the coming weeks. With those data in hand, we will keep the public informed of a timely plan for J&J booster shots."
The Biden administration is pushing a booster shot because the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, appear to be losing some efficacy against the much more transmissible Delta variant. There's less data for the Johnson & Johnson shot's longevity, though Johnson & Johnson told The New York Times it will "will share new data shortly regarding boosting with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine," probably "in the coming weeks."
"If you're doing data-driven decisions and you don't have the data, what can you do?" asked John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. He told the Times he "would be very, very surprised" if the U.S. didn't approve a second J&J shot "in the reasonably near future," adding, "The federal government is well aware of the J.&J. situation. ... It's not being overlooked."
Dr. Dan Barouch, a virologist at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said new real-world data from health workers in South Africa has "very clear results showing that the single-shot J&J vaccine provided substantial protection against the Delta variant." Barouch and Moore said they expect that when the booster shot is approved, it will be for a second J&J dose, not Pfizer or Moderna.