The Biden administration is expected to recommend that most people get a booster shot eight months after getting their second Covid vaccine shot, The Associated Press reports.
Medical officials have been looking at data to determine whether a third shot is necessary. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pushed back on the need for a booster shot when Pfizer suggested they should be approved just last month. But data from Israel, where most of the population was vaccinated earlier than in the United States, suggests that the vaccine may have weakening efficacy after six months.
The administration is expected to formally announce the decision as soon as next week though the shots will not be available until the FDA approves them.
Health officials previously approved boosters for people with weakened immune systems like cancer patients and organ transplant recipients.
Israeli data prompts decision:
Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said Tuesday that data from Israel prompted officials to rethink their view of boosters.
“The people who got immunized in January are the ones that are now having more breakthrough cases,” he said.
Israeli data suggests that there has been a weakening of the effectiveness of Pfizer’s vaccine against severe illness among people over 65 who were vaccinated in February or earlier.
“Mostly, of course, these are symptomatic, but not serious,” Collins said. “But you’re starting to see a little bit of a trend toward some of those requiring hospitalization.”
“Although right now, it still as if our vaccine protection is working really well,” he added. “But we don’t want to wait until it’s like oh, too late. So that’s why we’re looking at the data.”
Health care workers, seniors to get first dibs:
Health care workers and nursing home residents are expected to be eligible for a booster first along with seniors over 65, mirroring the rollout of the vaccine earlier this year.
More than 198 million Americans have gotten at least one dose and more than 168 million are fully vaccinated.
Israel has already rolled out booster shots for people over 60 who were vaccinated more than five months ago as the country grapples with the spread of the Delta variant, which is more transmissible than other variants, even in some vaccinated people.
Pfizer this week said it has submitted data backing a booster shot to the FDA, finding in a small study that people who received a third dose have higher levels of antibodies. The company is still working on a large trial.
Studies released this month showed that Pfizer’s effectiveness against severe illness dropped from 96% two months after vaccination to 90% after four months and 84% after six months.
Officials are still collecting data on the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine to determine if recipients should receive a second shot.