According to federal data, nearly 5.5 million 16- and 17-year-olds — two-thirds of that age group — have received at least one dose of the Pfizer vaccine. More than 4.7 million people took two doses. Nearly three million people had their second shot at least six months ago and will be eligible for a third shot this month.
On Thursday, the World Health Organization reiterated its concerns that aggressive supportive campaigns in wealthier countries could exacerbate global inequalities in access to vaccines.
“If we look at the data today, we see that even before Omicron, high-income countries administered more booster doses than even vaccines given in developing countries,” said Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the World Health Organization’s vaccination program in Africa. said at a press conference.
Biden administration officials argue that booster shots do not limit donations. According to the White House, the United States has promised 1.2 billion doses to countries in need — more than all other countries combined. About half a billion doses will be delivered about three months from now, officials said. Some African countries have asked for shipments to be stopped because they have more supplies than they can manage.
Federal health officials say that because Omicron contains dozens of never-before-seen mutations, it’s far more important that anyone eligible for the booster gets one.
When asked on Thursday whether a fourth shot was necessary, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the government’s health and medical professionals will continue to assess the situation.
The FDA’s latest booster authorization follows these preliminary results: Pfizer and BioNTech reported Wednesday Blood tests from people who have received two doses of the companies’ vaccine show that they contain much lower levels of antibodies to Omicron compared to a previous version of the virus. The companies said antibodies are the immune system’s first line of defense against the virus, and the results show that two doses may not be enough to protect against infection.
The companies said that with a booster, the level of antibodies trying to neutralize the Omicron variant was comparable to that fighting the original variant after two doses. Antibodies are just one measure of the immune system’s defenses. Cells attacking the virus triggered by the first two doses are still expected to provide significant protection against serious cases of Covid-19.