1 of 5 | Health officials emphasize that the COVID-19 vaccines continue to prove to be "remarkably effective" in avoiding severe cases, hospitalization and death. File Photo by Gary I. Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 18 (UPI) -- U.S. health officials said Wednesday they will make a COVID-19 booster shot available beginning next month due to rising cases associated with the Delta variant and data that show an extra shot can bring greater protection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal health agencies said their plan is to make the booster available to vaccinated people eight months after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
"Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective and long-lasting vaccines," the agencies said in a joint statement that was also signed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser.
The booster shots, subject to the CDC and Food and Drug Administration signing off on their safety and effectiveness, are expected to be offered beginning Sept. 20.
"The available data makes very clear that protection against [COVID-19] infection begins to decrease over time," the agencies added. "And in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease."
The booster will be available only to those who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Officials said, however, that they also expect to make available a booster for the Johnson & Johnson shot.
"Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout," the agencies added.
"For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability."
Health officials emphasized that the vaccines continue to prove to be "remarkably effective" in avoiding severe COVID-19, hospitalization and death.
The CDC and other agencies noted that they will also directly deliver additional doses for the booster for older people at long-term care facilities nationwide.
In their announcement, officials again urged unvaccinated Americans to be inoculated.
"Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization and death continue do occur among those not yet vaccinated at all," they said. "We will continue to ramp up efforts to increase vaccinations here at home and to ensure people have accurate information about vaccines from trusted sources."
The Food and Drug Administration, which signed onto Wednesday's announcement, had earlier given authorization for additional doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in people with compromised immune systems.