WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — U.S. health officials Wednesday recommended all Americans get COVID-19 booster shots to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and evidence that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling.
The plan, as outlined by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other top authorities, calls for an extra dose eight months after people get their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The doses could begin the week of Sept. 20. Booster shots are already available for those with compromised immune systems.
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Health officials said that they anticipate that people who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine will also need boosters. They are still studying data for when booster vaccinations will be recommended for those with the J&J shot.
In a statement, health officials said it is “very clear” that the vaccines’ protection against infection wanes over time, and now, with the highly contagious delta variant spreading rapidly, “we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease.”
“Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death could diminish in the months ahead,” they said.
Health officials said people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also probably need extra shots. But they said they are awaiting more data and have yet to work out the details.
The delta variant of COVID-19 has spread rapidly across the U.S., especially in areas with lower vaccination rates. A Reuters tally estimates that 42 people died an hour of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Currently, cases are averaging 769 a day, the highest since mid-April when the vaccine was opened to the general public.
Health officials have speculated throughout the U.S.’ COVID-19 vaccination campaign about the possibility of encouraging booster shots. They are a common measure used for other vaccines since protection decreases over time.
Researchers and health experts have stressed that the vaccines do provide strong protection against the delta variant. The majority of those suffering severe illness from the delta variant are unvaccinated Americans.
Overall vaccination rates have increased with the delta variant’s rise. Currently, 59.8% have at least one dose and 50.8% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated according to CDC data.
While governments and businesses initially offered incentives such as cash and prizes for getting vaccinated, the surge in cases has caused some companies and states to mandate vaccines if workers want to keep their jobs and not face routine testing.