President Joe Biden said his administration is considering whether to start booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine as soon as 5 months after people receive a second dose, a move that would accelerate U.S. plans by three months.
Soon after Biden made the comments -- at an Oval Office meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Friday -- his spokeswoman said there had been no change in the plan to administer boosters after eight months.
Biden nonetheless said he talked with infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci about the possible timeline change earlier in the day.
“We’re going to start mid-September, but we’re considering the advice you’ve given that we should start earlier,” Biden told Bennett with reporters in the room. “And the question raised is: Should it be shorter than eight months? Should it be as little as five months? And that’s being discussed.”
The discussion is underway as the highly contagious delta variant continues to fuel increases in coronavirus infections around the country, mostly among those who aren’t vaccinated. Some of those who have received shots have been contracting “breakthrough” infections, which typically include mild symptoms.
Relying substantially on data from Israel, Biden’s senior health team announced a plan this month for any adult to get a booster, beginning Sept. 20, if it’s been eight months since their second shot of either the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE or Moderna Inc. vaccines. That plan is still subject to authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Biden administration cited warning signs that vaccine efficacy is waning over time, and that the shots aren’t as effective against the delta variant. But some health experts say it’s not yet clear if boosters are needed for all adults, including the young and healthy.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden would rely on guidance from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but downplayed the potential for an acceleration.
“Nothing has changed about the eight month timeline as it relates to the boosters,” Psaki said. “The president referenced advice he’d been given from the prime minister. Obviously we make our own assessments based on -- it’s based on our health and medical experts here in the United States. And nothing has changed on that front.”
Moderna spokesman Ray Jordan said “we have been in regular dialog with the FDA on this topic,” and that the company expects to have additional data “within a few weeks.”
Pfizer didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The other vaccine in use in the U.S. -- a one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson -- was authorized in February and it’s not yet clear what U.S. regulators will recommend for boosters. J&J spokesman Jake Sargent said Friday that the company is working with the FDA and other agencies “regarding boosting with the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.”
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