Though there will be no immediate update, the increasingly widespread availability of Covid-19 booster shots could eventually change the definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated,” the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday, as some other countries have already started tightening their requirements.
Speaking at a White House Covid-19 briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the CDC’s definition of “fully vaccinated” remains unchanged because not everyone is eligible for booster doses yet.
For now, full vaccination against Covid-19 will continue to require two doses of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) or one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s jab.
But the agency will “continue to look at this” as booster doses become more widespread, Walensky said, adding the agency “may need to update our definition of fully vaccinated in the future.”
What We Don’t Know
How a change of definition by the CDC would impact U.S. federal, state and local vaccine mandates, many of which hinge on people getting “fully vaccinated.”
“Right now what I would say is if you’re eligible for a booster, go ahead and get a booster and we’ll continue to follow [developments]
,” Walensky said.
This is the first indication from the CDC that booster doses could become necessary for a person to qualify as “fully vaccinated.” But some other countries have already started tightening their definitions by adjusting travel vaccine requirements to include boosters. A handful of countries—including Austria, Israel and Switzerland—have set expiration dates for the “fully vaccinated” status travelers must have when visiting their countries. These updates require travelers to top up with additional doses
The Food and Drug Administration and CDC have green lit booster shots for millions of Americans based on evidence that vaccines’ protection against infection wanes over time (studies showed all three vaccines remained highly effective at preventing severe disease and death). The Biden administration wanted to roll out boosters for all Americans, but they are so far only approved for use among certain high-risk groups and all adult recipients of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot.
69%. That’s how many Americans qualify as “fully vaccinated,” according to a tracker run by The New York Times, while 79% have received at least one dose.