The rollout of the boosters is expected to follow a similar track to that used in the first round of immunizations.
The federal government is expected to call for most Americans to receive a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The New York Times reports that the decision to recommend the additional shots is expected to be announced this week. It will be advised that the third dose should be administered eight months after the patient received their second shot. The additional shots could be offered to healthcare personnel and those in nursing homes as early as mid-September.
The report cites unnamed Biden administration officials who say that those patients who received the single-shot Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will also require an additional dose, but they are still awaiting results from the company’s two-shot clinical trial.
The move comes as the Delta variant has driven up the numbers of COVID-19 infections across the country and has led to a rash of breakthrough infections among the already vaccinated.
The Times reports the scheme would depend on authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the additional shots.
Last week, the agency expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines to allow for a third dose to the estimated 3 percent of Americans, or about 9 million, with weakened immune systems. The vaccines are believed to be less effective in this group of people, but the initial hope was that widespread vaccinations would protect the immunocompromised population. As of Aug. 12, slightly more than half of eligible Americans, 167.1 million, have been fully vaccinated.
The move to expand the authorization is an about-face for the agency, as last month FDA leaders joined with leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release a statement expressing skepticism about the need for a third shot, citing the protections offered by the available two-dose regimens and urging the unvaccinated to get fully vaccinated.
The CDC has now come out in favor of COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant patients and those who live in the same household as pregnant patients citing the group’s increased risk of severe illness.
Pfizer has been on the forefront of preparing for booster doses of their vaccine announcing that they’d seek authorization for an additional shot in July.
The company test results which indicate a third dose of the current BNT162b2 vaccine given six months after the second dose has a consistent tolerability profile and elicits high neutralization titers five or 10 times higher than the primary doses.
When it comes to the Delta variant, the two-dose regimen have strong neutralization titers, but the company believes those protections would increase with a third dose. They are conducting pre-clinical and clinical tests to prove this hypothesis.
They also released a study which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, which found that the company’s two-dose vaccine produced a 96 percent efficacy rate against symptomatic COVID-19 two months after the second shot, but the protection fell every two months after that coming to about 83.7 percent efficacy after four to six months.