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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has decided that most Americans should get a coronavirus booster vaccination eight months after they received their second shot, and could begin offering third shots as early as mid-September, according to administration officials familiar with the discussions.rr
Officials are planning to announce the decision as early as this week. Their goal is to let Americans who received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines know now that they will need additional protection against the Delta variant that is causing caseloads to surge across much of the nation. The new policy will depend on the Food and Drug Administration’s authorisation of additional shots.rr
Officials said they expect that recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was authorised as a one-dose regimen, will also require an additional dose. But they are waiting for the results of that firm’s two-dose clinical trial, expected later this month.rr
The first boosters are likely to go to nursing home residents, health care workers and emergency workers. They would probably followed by other older people who were near the front of the line when vaccinations began late last year, then by the general population. Officials envision giving people the same vaccine they originally received.rr
The decision comes as the Biden administration is struggling to regain control of a pandemic that it had claimed to have tamed little more than a month ago. President Biden had declared the nation reopened for normal life for the July 4 holiday, but the wildfire spread of the Delta variant has thwarted that. Covid-19 patients are again overwhelming hospitals in some states, and federal officials are worried about an increase in the number of children hospitalised just as the school year is set to begin.rr
For weeks, Biden administration officials have been analysing the rise in Covid-19 cases, trying to figure out if the Delta variant is better able to evade the vaccines or if the vaccines have waned in strength over time. According to some administration experts, both could be true, a distressing combination that is re-energising a pandemic that the nation fervently hoped had been curbed.rr
Dr Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, told “Fox News Sunday” that “there is a concern that the vaccine may start to wane”. That, combined with the Delta variant’s ferocity, could dictate boosters, he said.rr
Federal health officials have been particularly concerned about data from Israel suggesting that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s protection against severe disease has fallen significantly for elderly people who got their second shot in January or February.rr
Israel can in some ways be viewed as a template for the United States because it vaccinated more of its population faster and has almost exclusively used the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that made up much of the US stock. Unlike the United States, though, Israel has a nationalised health care system that allows it to systematically track patients.