The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends all adults should receive a “booster” dose of Covid-19 vaccine, as the emergence of the omicron variant underscores potential risks from the ongoing public health crisis.
All adults are eligible for a booster dose six months after their first two-dose vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) or two months after a single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Early data from South Africa suggests omicron poses a risk of increased transmissibility and potential for so-called “immune evasion” with current vaccines. Health officials have not yet confirmed any omicron infections in the US.
“The recent emergence of the [omicron variant] further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against Covid-19,” CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement on Monday.
“I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to vaccinate the children and teens in their families as well because strong immunity will likely prevent serious illness,” she said.
Dr Walensky also urged people who are feeling sick to get tested, as “increased testing will help us identify omicron quickly.”
More than 196 million Americans, or nearly 60 per cent of the US population, have received both doses of two-dose Covid-19 vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC, as of 29 November.
Among those who are “fully vaccinated”, 37 million have received a “booster” vaccine dose, including more than 42 per cent of Americans over age 65.
Nearly 70 per cent of the US has received at least one dose.
Previous CDC guidance for those who “should” get boosters applied only to people age 50 and older or 18 and older and living in long term care. The word “should” applies to all vaccinated people age 18 and older.
CDC reporting has found that vaccine efficacy becomes less effective over time, but still remains effective at combatting severe disease.
“This lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes since getting vaccinated, as well as the greater infectiousness” of the more-contagious delta variant, according to the CDC. Delta remains the current dominant variant in the US.
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