Rollout of Pfizer, Moderna shots set for September
U.S. health officials and President Joe Biden unveiled plans Wednesday to offer booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to previously inoculated individuals to provide additional protection against the highly transmissible delta variant.
Booster shots are now recommended for all Americans who completed their vaccine series with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least eight months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement. Officials said they are prepared to offer booster shots starting Sept. 20 for those eligible.
The booster shots will initially be administered to people who received one of the mRNA vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021, focusing largely on healthcare workers, nursing home residents and elderly individuals.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health released a joint statement on Wednesday explaining that recent data shows vaccine protection against COVID-19 wanes over time.
With the delta variant circulating and posing the risk for breakthrough infection, officials said they expect protection with a booster shot is needed to provide additional protection.
“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” officials said in a statement. “Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout.”
“For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
Health officials anticipate that those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will likely need booster protection as well. Additional data on the J&J booster shot is likely to be unveiled within the next few weeks, officials said.
President Joe Biden voiced his support for the booster shots at the White House Wednesday.
“This will boost your immune response. It will increase your protection from COVID-19,” the president said. “That’s the best way to protect ourselves from new variants that could arise.”
The booster shots will be available for people 18 and older in the initial rollout, as officials are still awaiting FDA review of the booster shot for people vaccinated between ages 12 and 17, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy told reporters Wednesday.
The need for booster shots comes as the delta variant accounts for more than 98.8% of current U.S. cases, according to the latest CDC data.
In Santa Barbara County, more than 95% of cases sequenced in July revealed the delta variant, according to data from the county’s Public Health Department. With the delta variant gaining traction in the county in recent weeks, the Public Health Department has reported a recent uptick in cases.
On Wednesday, the department reported 135 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths, bringing the county’s active case total to 844 infections.
Officials reported 29 new infections in Santa Maria, 27 infections in Lompoc, 18 in Santa Barbara and 15 in Goleta.
Twelve cases were reported in unincorporated areas of Summerland and Montecito and the city of Carpinteria.
Eight new cases were reported in Orcutt. Six were reported in the North County unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, Cuyama and New Cuyama and the city of Guadalupe.
Elsewhere in the county, officials reported five cases in the Santa Ynez Valley, five cases in the unincorporated Goleta Valley and Gaviota, and four cases in Isla Vista.
Six cases were pending as of Wednesday.
Also on Wednesday, 63 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, and 12 of those patients were recovering in the ICU.
According to the latest vaccine data, 63.4% of the county’s eligible 12 and older population is fully vaccinated, and 72.4% of that population has received at least one dose. Of the entire county population, 53.7% of people are fully vaccinated.