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Some Americans Could Be Getting Booster Shots In September

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Another round of vaccinations is around the corner. Top Biden administration officials have announced a plan to offer booster shots to fully vaccinated adults beginning next month. Though, this is pending a review by the FDA and a panel of CDC advisers. NPR's Allison Aubrey joins us with details.

Hey there.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Good to be here, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So it seems like just recently we were hearing officials say, we're not sure everybody's going to need a booster shot. What has changed?

AUBREY: Well, CDC Director Walensky pointed to several new lines of evidence today, showing that protection against infection begins to decrease over time among vaccinated people. For instance, new data from New York show that in May, the vaccines were about 92% effective against new COVID infections. But by late July, that had declined to about 80%. And she pointed to a study from the Mayo Clinic that found effectiveness against delta infections has decreased pretty significantly. Here's Dr. Walensky.

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ROCHELLE WALENSKY: The data we will publish today and next week demonstrate the vaccine effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection is waning.

AUBREY: And given this, she says the plan is to start offering boosters as soon as September 20. She says the goal is to stay ahead of the virus and maximize vaccine production.

KELLY: So the boosters are coming.

AUBREY: That's right.

KELLY: Who's going to get them first?

AUBREY: Well, officials say people will be eligible eight months after they received their second shot of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. And since health care workers, people living in long-term care facilities and older adults were among the first to get vaccinated, these groups will be first up for the boosters, too.

KELLY: Sure.

AUBREY: Right now the booster plan applies to people who got the Moderna and Pfizer shots. It's anticipated that people who got the J&J shot will need a booster, too, but that is pending a review of more data. And separately, the Biden administration has a plan to require nursing homes to mandate vaccines for their staff or risk losing Medicare, Medicaid funding.

KELLY: And how about the where we will go to get booster shots? How's that going to work?

AUBREY: Yeah, there will be lots of options, Mary Louise. Some people will go back to the pharmacy where they got their initial doses. Some doctors offices and clinics plan to offer the shots. Here's the administration's COVID response coordinator, Jeff Zients.

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JEFF ZIENTS: We have enough vaccine supply for every American, and you'll be able to get a booster at roughly 80,000 places across the country.

AUBREY: He says boosters will be free, and no ID or insurance card will be required.

KELLY: And just settle the debate here. Is this now agreed among doctors, among public health experts - Americans, all Americans are going to need a booster shot.

AUBREY: You know, I think there's a wide consensus that a waning of protection was predictable and is not a big surprise. And as Dr. Tony Fauci said today, it's better to act now because it would be hard to play catch-up with boosters later on. But there is criticism. I mean, given so many people in countries around the globe remain unvaccinated, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy addressed this concern today.

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VIVEK MURTHY: I do not accept the idea that we have to choose between America and the world. We clearly see our responsibility to both, and we believe we have to work on both fronts, as we have been.

AUBREY: Administration officials say the U.S. shipped more than 100 million doses of COVID vaccines to other countries in the months of June and July, and they say the U.S. will continue to support efforts to boost manufacturing and distribution around the globe.

KELLY: That is NPR's Allison Aubrey.

Thank you, Allison.

AUBREY: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.