Nov. 30, 2021 -- The CDC strengthened its recommendation for COVID-19 booster shots on Monday, saying that all American adults “should” get an extra shot as the new Omicron variant spreads around the world.

People ages 18 and older should get a booster dose at least 6 months after the initial two-dose vaccine series for the Pfizer and Moderna shots or 2 months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the agency said.

“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” Rochelle Walensky, MD, director of the CDC, said in a statement.

Previously, the CDC said those over age 50 and adults in long-term care facilities “should” get booster shots, and other adults “may” decide to get one based on their individual risks. Now the word “should” applies to all adults.

The shift in tone signals a growing concern about the Omicron variant despite the limited information so far, according to The New York Times. Scientists in dozens of labs across the world are now studying whether the new variant is more contagious and if it may evade vaccines. Some results are expected in about 2 weeks.

“Early data from South Africa suggest increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant, and scientists in the United States and around the world are urgently examining vaccine effectiveness related to this variant,” Walensky said in the statement.

Walensky also encouraged the 47 million adults who haven’t yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 to get a shot “as soon as possible.” She said children and teens should be vaccinated to “prevent serious illness” and protect their families.

“I also want to encourage people to get a COVID-19 test if they are sick,” she said. “Increased testing will help us identify Omicron quickly.”

Show Sources

CDC: “CDC Expands COVID-19 Booster Recommendations.”

The New York Times: “The CDC strengthened its booster recommendations as worries mount over Omicron.”

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