Extended Eligibility Boosts US COVID-19 Booster Shots Ahead of the Holiday Season

Vials labeled “Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine” can be seen in this image, taken May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

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Nov. 25 (Reuters) – Millions of Americans received COVID-19 booster shots at near record speed after the Biden administration expanded eligibility last week, but health officials worried about contracting infections ahead of the winter holidays urged more to get the extra protection.

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 37.5 million people had received booster injections in the United States as of Tuesday.

“I think it’s a good start,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a leading infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, who added that boosters are more important for personal protection than for containing the spread. of the virus.

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“I’m hoping for much better. I’d like to see all of that double very, very soon,” he said of the booster shot.

U.S. regulators have extended vaccine booster eligibility to all adults, giving millions more Americans additional protection amid a recent surge in infections, including among fully vaccinated. read more

Previously, people over 65 and people with a high risk of infection due to underlying health or working conditions were eligible for the extra injections.

Just over six million people received an additional dose of one of three approved COVID-19 vaccines last week, CDC data shows, the highest weekly total since boosters were first approved, and an increase of more than 15% compared to the previous week.

More than 130 million fully vaccinated adults in the United States are now eligible for the injections, at least six months after the second dose of the Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech or Moderna (MRNA.O) vaccines or two months after receiving Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ.N) single dose vaccine.

More than a quarter of those now eligible have received boosters. Some experts felt that previous eligibility requirements for booster shots were too complicated and may have discouraged people from getting them, or that previous evidence for the extra shots was lacking.

“There’s a much better justification for boosters now than when the White House first promoted the idea (in August). They created some mixed messages,” said Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg. School of Public Health. “We’re in a better place now.”

DECREASING IMMUNITY

Officials, including CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, for weeks now, has been urging more Americans to opt for extra protection as they prepare to travel and gather with friends and family for this week’s American Thanksgiving holiday.

After about two months of declining infections, the United States has reported daily increases for the past two weeks, driven by the more easily transmitted Delta variant of the virus and people spending more time indoors due to the colder weather.

“We’d like as many people as possible who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen to get a boost,” Fauci said on Tuesday in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.

He said the “overwhelming majority” of Americans who have been fully vaccinated must now receive a COVID-19 booster shot based on data showing they provide “substantial” protection beyond what is seen with the original inoculation. read more

Regulators supported the extra doses out of concern over data showing that the immunity generated by the first shots wanes over time. Studies have shown that booster doses generate higher neutralizing antibody levels on average than initial inoculations, and data from Pfizer suggest that they can significantly reduce infections.

Some scientists believe that boosters are unnecessary for many healthy adults, arguing that vaccinating the unvaccinated should be the priority.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised countries against making boosters available until more people around the world have received their primary doses.

But on Tuesday, WHO’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, urged Europeans to get booster doses if offered in the face of rising cases. The WHO said there could be another 700,000 dead by March if no action is taken. read more

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Reporting by Michael Erman in New Jersey and Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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