US to Recommend COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters at 8 Months

Carolyn Crist

August 17, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

US health officials are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster shots at 8 months after receiving the second dose, according to The Associated Press.

The recommendation is slated to apply to all Americans, regardless of age, as a measure to provide ongoing protection against the coronavirus as the contagious Delta variant continues to spread across the country.

News outlets began to report on the recommendation on Monday evening after federal health officials reviewed new data from Israel, which suggested that protection from the Pfizer vaccine is beginning to drop among those who received a second shot in January or February.

The announcement could come as early as this week, two officials told the AP. The booster doses would begin once the FDA fully approves a COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected for the Pfizer shot around the beginning of September.

Vaccination sites could offer third shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as early as mid-September, according to The New York Times. Americans who received the first vaccine doses last year — such as frontline healthcare workers and nursing home residents — would receive the first booster doses. People will likely be recommended to take the same shot they originally received, the newspaper reported.

Late last week, the FDA authorized booster shots for immunocompromised patients. People with weakened immune systems, particularly organ transplant patients, face higher risks for contracting severe COVID-19 and have a lower immune response to vaccines.

Israel has been offering a COVID-19 vaccine booster to people over 50 years who were vaccinated more than 5 months ago to reduce a surge in cases due to the Delta variant, according to The Times of Israel. More than 1 million people have received the third shot, and so far, they appear to be 2.5 times more protected from infection than those who received only two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Since the Delta variant began rapidly spreading in the US this summer, federal health officials have been studying how the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, as well as the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, protect against the more contagious strain of the coronavirus. Officials expect that recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also need an additional dose, but they are waiting for the results from the company's two-dose clinical trial, The New York Times reported, which is expected later this month.

The White House has said that the US has enough vaccine supplies to deliver booster shots to Americans this fall if they are recommended, the AP reported.

At the same time, global health groups such as the WHO have called on wealthier countries with higher vaccination rates to pause booster shots until the end of September and share available doses with people in developing countries who haven't yet received a first shot. France and Germany have announced plans to offer booster shots to vulnerable groups next month, The New York Times reported.

Data from the latest COVID-19 cases will help US officials make a final decision on boosters in the "next couple of weeks," Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, said on Sunday.

"There is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane in its effectiveness," Collins told "Fox News Sunday."

"And Delta is a nasty one for us to try to deal with," he said. "The combination of those two means we may need boosters, maybe beginning first with healthcare providers, as well as people in nursing homes, and then gradually moving forward."