Sept. 8, 2021 -- The Biden administration still plans to offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots starting Sept. 20, though the rollout may differ from the initial plan.

FDA and CDC advisers still need to meet next week to approve a third dose, and even then, only certain people may be recommended to get another shot for now, according to The Associated Press.

First announced in August, the plan was to offer Pfizer and Moderna boosters to Americans 8 months after their second dose, the AP reported. But since then, Moderna has requested that its booster be half the dose of the original shots, and the FDA has said it needs more data from Moderna before deciding. Johnson & Johnson also needs to submit an application to the FDA for a booster dose.

The FDA’s independent advisory committee will publicly debate Pfizer’s data on Sept. 17, the Friday before the rollout is scheduled to begin. If the FDA approves a third shot, then the CDC’s advisory committee will recommend who should receive one. Nursing home residents, front-line health care workers, and older adults who have the highest risk of severe disease will likely have priority, the AP reported.

Public health officials are also reviewing the data to understand how long protection lasts after the COVID-19 vaccines, how that varies by age or health conditions, and how long immunity may last after a booster shot.

For many other types of vaccines, booster shots are recommended about 6 months after a first dose, the AP reported. The timing matters because the immune system builds layers of protection over time. If a booster shot is provided too soon, the immune response may not reach optimal levels.

“Sometimes waiting a little bit extra time is in fact appropriate to gain the strongest response,” Cameron Wolfe, an infectious diseases specialist at Duke University, told the AP.

Public health officials are also debating whether a booster dose will provide more protection against the more contagious Delta variant, which has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations nationwide. As of Tuesday, the U.S. had already surpassed the infection total from last year, according to USA Today.

On Tuesday night, the U.S. had logged 20.14 million COVID-19 cases in 2021, passing the 2020 total of 20.1 million. Since testing was initially limited last year, the true total for 2020 is unknown, USA Today reported. But current case numbers point to an ongoing surge this fall.

President Joe Biden is scheduled Thursday to deliver remarks about his administration’s COVID-19 strategy, the newspaper reported. He’s expected to lay out a six-pronged strategy that involves the public and private sectors in the latest attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus and boost vaccination rates.

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The Associated Press: “COVID-19 boosters are coming but who will get them and when?”

USA Today: “U.S. surpasses infection total from 2020.”

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