Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters Friday that the nation’s definition of “fully vaccinated” could change as the nation continues to increase the eligibility of COVID-19 booster shots.
The information was shared during a virtual White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing that included Walensky answering questions from reporters.
“We have not yet changed the definition of ‘fully vaccinated.’ We will continue to look at this. We may need to update our definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ in the future,” the CDC director said.
“But, right now, what I would say is: If you’re eligible for a booster, go ahead and get your booster and we will continue to follow,” she said.
The news followed an update from White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients, who said in the virtual briefing that 70 million people are eligible to receive booster shots.
That number will soon grow, with Zients saying that “more than 120 million Americans” will become eligible for a booster in near future.
“This includes over 60 million vaccinated with Moderna and [Johnson & Johnson], on top of the 60 million vaccinated with Pfizer,” he said.
“Importantly, of that total of 120 million, about 70 million are eligible now, as of today.”
Should the CDC change the definition of “fully vaccinated”?
As of Friday, 66.3 percent of Americans have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker. In total, 57.4 percent of Americans are defined as fully vaccinated.
In addition, the CDC recommended a coronavirus booster shot for all American adults on Thursday, though not everyone is yet eligible.
For Americans who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, they are eligible for a booster shot after six months if they are 65 years old or older, or individuals age 18 or older who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or work or live in high-risk settings.
The agency said that for those who have received the single dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots are recommended for those who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
“These recommendations are another example of our fundamental commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19. The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given,” Walensky said in the statement.
“And, they are all highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even in the midst of the widely circulating Delta variant,” she added.
In addition, the booster shots could become part of a new definition of being fully vaccinated.
Croatia became the first country to require a booster shot for someone to be considered fully vaccinated if that person’s first vaccination was longer than 270 days ago.