Last night, hopes were raised that the United States could prevent a winter health crisis, since research from Israel suggests that booster vaccinations can drastically cut infections and hospitalizations.
When immunity from the first two doses began to wane in the summer, the country, which has led the world in vaccinations, gave out boosters.
Almost half of its population has now received a third booster dose, and hospitalizations were cut in half last week compared to the previous month.
Cases have also dropped to 1,200, which is around five times fewer than in September.
It comes as good news to millions of more Americans may become eligible to receive boosters after a federal advisory committee voted last week to support additional shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
So far, more than 8.8 million Americans have received a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
According to the Biden administration, enough doses of COVID-19 vaccination have been pre-purchased to continue providing them at no cost to Americans.
The CDC also approved a “mix-and-match” approach in which persons who are eligible for boosters can choose to receive a dose of a different type than the one they first received.
There has been a lot of regulatory guidance on who can receive booster doses of Covid vaccinations over the last week, allowing a big segment of the US population access to extra protection.
Both Dr. Walensky and Dr. Fauci sought to dispel confusion about booster shots and explain the option of “mixing and matching” initial vaccines and boosters.
Boosters for all three vaccines that are now available in the United States have been approved. Additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both of which use mRNA technology, have been approved for those 65 and older, those with underlying health issues, and all adults whose living or working conditions put them at high risk of viral exposure. Anyone over the age of 18 who received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine at least two months ago is also eligible for a booster.
People can receive a booster shot that is different from the initial vaccine they first received, the health authorities said.
“If you were originally vaccinated with one product, could you and would it be appropriate and safe and effective to get boosted in the third shot for the mRNA and the second shot for J.&.J. by another product?” Dr. Fauci said.
“The answer is, it’s perfectly fine.”
Experts estimate that more than 120 million Americans will be eligible for a booster shot in the coming months, and that shots are available at more than 80,000 places around the country, including at least 40,000 local pharmacies.
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