Biden Set to Urge Covid-19 Booster Shots Starting Next Month
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government is poised to offer coronavirus booster shots as soon as next month, with the country facing a renewed wave of infections fueled by the delta variant.
Biden administration officials are finalizing a plan expected to recommend booster shots eight months after people received their second dose, according to two people familiar with the deliberations who asked not to be identified. The plan is not yet finalized but an announcement could come as soon as this week, they said.
If adopted, the plan could mean booster shots would start as early as September. The proposal would be subject to authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the people said.
It would also slow the pace of U.S. vaccine donations abroad, which have until this month been driven by surplus doses that might now be held back to serve as boosters. Nearly 170 million Americans have been vaccinated, and thus could be eligible for boosters in the coming months.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for a moratorium on Covid-19 booster shots through September to enable poorer countries to catch up on vaccination rates.
Booster shots would force Biden to revive a flagging vaccination campaign, which began to run out of willing arms months ago. Case loads fell nationally through late spring, only to surge again with the arrival of the delta variant, which has spread primarily among the unvaccinated.
The spike in cases has fueled a relatively small uptick in vaccinations, with an average of about 770,000 daily shots, up from an average of about 500,000 last month.
The Covid-19 resurgence is one pillar of a summer reality check for Biden, who returned from Camp David on Monday to speak about the collapse of Kabul and the pressures in Afghanistan. The dual challenges threaten to consume the president’s agenda, as he pushes to reopen the country and steer a pair of major spending bills through Congress.
Biden administration officials have long said they were preparing for the possibility of booster shots, but so far they’ve only been authorized for immuno-compromised people. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said last week that Americans shouldn’t seek a booster until they’re eligible.
The administration would offer a third dose of the Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. vaccine, depending on what the patient previously received, the people said. The plan was reported earlier by the New York Times. The vast majority of people in the U.S. received Pfizer or Moderna shots.
The booster shots will begin with high-risk groups like front-line workers and the elderly, who got their shots first and thus would hit the 8-month marker soonest, one person said.
Biden called for full eligibility for all adults by April 19, though some states opened eligibility sooner. For those who began vaccination when eligibility fully opened, a booster wouldn’t be due until January.
It wasn’t immediately clear what would be offered to those who received Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine; that shot was only authorized in February, meaning that if the eight-month timeline holds, recipients wouldn’t be eligible for boosters until late October at the earliest. The administration is waiting on data to decide how to proceed on J&J, the people said.
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