A CDC briefing document seen by ABC News estimates that at least a million people have received covid-19 booster shots. The number may be higher, since the document reportedly does not account for people who’ve received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The document is not publicly available, and in an email to Gizmodo, a CDC spokesperson said that the agency does “not comment on leaked information.”
Currently, a person in the U.S. is considered fully vaccinated after one dose of a Johnson & Johnson covid-19 vaccine or two doses of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. But some people have been getting additional doses, either on the advice of their doctor or simply by deciding on their own: Last month, Camille Kotton, a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, told the Washington Post that many have “taken matters into their own hands and many are proceeding with additional doses of vaccine as they see fit.”
As health policy outlet STAT has reported, vaccine sites would have to decide to check health records to catch someone getting an extra dose, and hospitals have to set their own policies in determining which patients might be prescribed additional doses. Insurers will need to decide whether to cover them.
Scientists have said that we so far lack adequate data to show that boosters are necessary yet, including for immunocompromised people, who face highest health risks of covid-19 infections. While the Delta variant seems more capable than earlier strains of infecting a vaccinated person, the current vaccine dosing schedule still appears to offer strong protection against serious illness and death. Pfizer and Moderna have suggested that additional doses could be needed to boost immunity in some people by this fall or winter, but the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on boosters until September, pointing out that it further incentivizes rich countries to hoard vaccines while some nations haven’t even dispensed first doses. Less than 1% of people in 23 countries, primarily in the Middle East and Africa, have been fully vaccinated. In the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, that number is zero.
Meanwhile, Britain, Israel, and Germany have already greenlit extra shots for certain at-risk populations, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health has okay’ed what they call “supplemental doses” of mRNA vaccine for people who received a single Johnson & Johnson dose.
In a White House briefing last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that the agency was “just starting to gather data” on physician-approved booster shots. In an email to Gizmodo, an FDA spokesperson said that the agency is “closely monitoring data as it becomes available from studies administering an additional dose of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines to immunocompromised individuals.” They added that the agency, along with the CDC, is “evaluating potential options on this issue, and will share information in the near future.”