On August 18, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement announcing the Administration’s plan to provide COVID-19 booster shots to all Americans beginning the week of September 20.
Though the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized in the U.S. continue to be effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization and death – even amongst the widely circulating Delta variant – data suggests a reduction in protection over time. Given this decline in protection against mild and moderate disease and increased transmission of the Delta variant, the agency’s public health officials believe that there is sufficient evidence pointing to the need to maximize and prolong the durability of immune protection through the use of booster shots.
The agency intends to make booster shots available for individuals who are at least 8 months out from their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines and has indicated that the administration of booster shots would closely mirror the initial vaccine rollout, with individuals in certain population groups – such as health care providers, nursing home residents, and other seniors – given priority. Additionally, given the elevated risk that COVID-19 continues to pose for individuals in long-term care facilities, booster shots will be provided directly to those residents once they are made available.
The agency’s plan is still pending FDA approval of booster shots following an independent evaluation regarding the safety and efficacy of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines, as well as a thorough review and recommendation by CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This announcement comes on the heels of ACIP’s August 13 vote of approval to recommend that individuals who are immunocompromised receive a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Though the agency also anticipates booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson one dose vaccine, that decision is pending the release of further data.
Counties, which have supported over 150 million adult vaccinations in the United States, will have an indispensable role in the ongoing administration of COVID-19 vaccines and now the administration of boosters. NACo will continue to monitor and communicate developments regarding the federal plan for distributing vaccines and booster shots as they evolve.
For an overview of scientific data on vaccine effectiveness, see additional resources below.
- NACo Brief: The County Role in Vaccines
- CDC Report: Sustained Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines Against COVID-19 Associated Hospitals Among Adults
- CDC Report: New COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations Among Adults, by Vaccination Status
- CDC Report: Effectiveness of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Vaccines in Preventing SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Nursing Home Residents Before and After Widespread Circulation of the Delta Variant