The Biden administration will make the additional doses of two COVID-19 vaccines available to combat the Delta variant.
The federal government will make third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines available to all American next month.
According to a report from The Washington Post, the decision came after the administration reviewed a wide array of data and concluded that the additional shots are needed to maintain immunity against COVID-19. For now, the administration will not recommend an additional dose for those who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine as the government still reviews data.
The move comes as the Delta variant has driven up the numbers of COVID-19 infections across the country and has led to a rash of breakthrough infections among the already vaccinated.
Yesterday, when the move was hinted at by administration officials they said it would be dependent on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization, but there’s been no reports of a timeline for such authorization.
Last week, the agency expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose vaccines to allow for a third dose to the estimated 3 percent of Americans, or about 9 million, with weakened immune systems. The vaccines are believed to be less effective in this group of people, but the initial hope was that widespread vaccinations would protect the immunocompromised population. As of Aug. 12, slightly more than half of eligible Americans, 167.1 million, have been fully vaccinated.
The move to expand the authorization is an about-face for the agency, as last month FDA leaders joined with leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release a statement expressing skepticism about the need for a third shot, citing the protections offered by the available two-dose regimens and urging the unvaccinated to get fully vaccinated.
The CDC has now come out in favor of COVID-19 vaccination for pregnant patients and those who live in the same household as pregnant patients citing the group’s increased risk of severe illness.
Meanwhile, a new study of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine found that the Delta variant was unable to evade all but one of the antibodies tested by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
According to a news release, of the 13 antibodies the Pfizer vaccine developed which target the original virus, 12 recognized the Alpha and Delta variants, eight recognized all variants, and one failed to recognize any of the four tested variants.
“The fact that delta has outcompeted other variants does not mean that it’s more resistant to our antibodies compared to other variants,” says co-senior author Jacco Boon, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, of molecular microbiology and of pathology and immunology. “The ability of a variant to spread is the sum of many factors. Resistance to antibodies is just one factor. Another one is how well the variant replicates. A variant that replicates better is likely to spread faster, independent of its ability to evade our immune response. So, delta is surging, yes, but there’s no evidence that it is better at overcoming vaccine-induced immunity compared to other variants.”
This article was initially published by our sister publication Medical Economics.