The Corner

Health Care

Barely a Week After Publicly Downplaying the Need for Booster Shots, the CDC Is Expected to Endorse Boosters

Grace Demars receives a COVID-19 vaccine at North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond, La., August 5, 2021. (Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters)

Once you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, how long does your body’s ability to effectively fight off the virus last? We’ve seen a small – one-tenth of one percent of all vaccinated Americans — but increasing number of “breakthrough infections” among fully vaccinated individuals. Those infections rarely if ever amount to serious illness, and those infected almost always stay out of the hospital. But it does suggest that a body’s ability to fight off COVID-19 – or perhaps the Delta variant in particular – wanes over time.

At the end of July, Pfizer’s CEO  Albert Bourla said during the appearance on CNBC that the efficacy of his company’s vaccine steadily declines to about 84 percent about six months after a second dose, and that the declined an average of 6 percent every two months. That’s not disastrous, but it does present a potential problem for those most vulnerable to the virus.

“We have seen also data from Israel that there is a waning of immunity and that starts impacting what used to be what was 100 percent against hospitalization. Now, after the six-month period, is becoming low 90s and mid-to-high 80s,” Bourla said.

Numbers like that suggested that the most vulnerable Americans would need a booster shot, probably in the fall.

Keep in mind, by January 31, the U.S. had administered nearly 30 million doses of the vaccine, and 5.2 million people were fully vaccinated – many of whom were front-line responders, medical personnel, and the elderly and immunocompromised. That was seven and a half months ago.

I wrote in the Morning Jolt last Thursday, “if the 44 million American senior citizens who are fully vaccinated are going to need boosters in the fall, it is probably a good idea to start openly discussing this now — instead of mid-August FDA statements declaring that ‘individuals who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine at this time.’”

The good news is, NIH Director Francis Collins says the data from Israel on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines over time is causing U.S. health leaders to rethink their position on vaccine booster shots – and the U.S. is expected to endorse booster shots for everyone who is fully vaccinated in the coming days.

The bad news is, that we’re seeing the U.S. government discussing the need for boosters, while the Israelis started administering their boosters to the elderly three weeks ago. And CDC director Rochelle Walensky complained last week about the roughly million Americans who went out and got a third shot without waiting for the government to recommend them.

And five days ago, the CDC declared, “individuals who are fully vaccinated are adequately protected and do not need an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine at this time.”

If it seems like the Biden administration’s message isn’t keeping up with the changing situation on the ground… well, there’s a lot of that going around these days.


The Latest