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Washington: The Biden administration is advising all American adults to receive a COVID-19 booster shot after accumulating evidence showed the vaccines are becoming increasingly ineffective at preventing infection over time.
People aged 18 years and older who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines will be eligible for a free booster dose eight months after their second dose, White House officials said.
The booster plan will begin the week starting September 20, with senior citizens and healthcare workers first in line to receive a third vaccine dose.
The Biden administration will make COVID-19 vaccines available to all American adults starting next month, beginning with senior citizens and healthcare workers. Credit:AP
The Biden administration’s decision puts it at odds with the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said earlier in the day that booster shots were not yet needed.
“Recent data makes clear that protection against mild and moderate disease has decreased over time,” US Surgeon-General Vivek Murthy said at a briefing on Thursday (AEST).
“It is now our clinical judgment that the time to lay out a plan for COVID boosters is now.”
Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General, said now is the time for a vaccine booster program. Credit:Bloomberg
Booster shots will be distributed directly to nursing home residents next month, Murthy said.
The administration had previously recommended that immunocompromised individuals receive a third vaccine dose to increase their protection against the virus.
The officials stressed that a two-dose vaccine regimen is still extremely effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19.
So-called “breakthrough” infections for the fully-vaccinated are usually only accompanied by mild symptoms.
The US will make booster shots available to adults starting in September.Credit:AP
Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the plan for a booster is happening now because “if you wait for something bad to happen, you’re considerably behind in your response”.
The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that “the current protection against severe disease, hospitalisation, 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”.
Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, cited three studies published by the agency on Thursday (AEST) that showed a reduction in protection from infection over time, including in nursing homes and against the delta variant.
“The data consistently demonstrate a reduction of vaccine effectiveness against infection over time,” Walensky said.
These studies, the first of their kind in the US, follow similar research in Israel that showed waning effectiveness over time for the vaccines.
But WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told reporters at a briefing: “We believe clearly that the data today does not indicate that boosters are needed.”
The WHO has insisted that vulnerable people around the world, including in developing countries, should be given the chance to receive two vaccine doses before wealthy nations start administering boosters to their citizens.
“There is enough vaccine around the world, but it is not going to the right places in the right order,” WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said.
Biden will address the booster shot decision at a White House speech on Thursday (AEST).
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