May 25, 2022

go health

With omicron, changing what it means to be fully vaccinated is ‘on the table.’ What we know today


What’s it take to become fully vaccinated?

Sarah Tew/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

If you’ve received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, the news on omicron isn’t promising. The new variant “has the unfortunate capability of spreading very, very efficiently,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Friday on CNBC. The better news is, Fauci said, boosters can help guard against omicron infection and lessen symptoms. “There is no doubt that optimum vaccination is with a booster. There is no doubt about that,” Fauci said. The importance for a booster is so key to protecting against the variant that Fauci said that redefining what it means to be fully “vaccinated” from two shots to three “is certainly on the table.”

And while omicron is spreading, the majority of the cases in the US are from the delta variant, which the vaccines remain effective against. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone unvaccinated is eight times more likely to be hospitalized due to COVID-19 and 14 times more likely to die from it compared to a fully vaccinated individual.

But omicron, with its ability to infect those who are fully vaccinated, is forcing health officials to reexamine what it means to be “fully vaccinated.” Here’s what we know today about why the CDC may change the definition from two shots to three. For more, where’s the latest on the Moderna booster shots, what you need to know about the Pfizer antiviral pill and how to pick between the vaccine boosters.

Now playing:
Watch this:

What to do if you lose your vaccination card, and how…


How many COVID vaccine doses do you need to be considered ‘fully vaccinated?’

According to the CDC, you’re fully vaccinated two weeks after you receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or two weeks after a single dose of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.

The CDC also considers you fully vaccinated if you received any single-dose vaccine listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization or any combination of the two-dose vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration or listed by the WHO for emergency use.

Why would the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ change from two doses of the mRNA vaccines to three?

In the last two weeks, as preliminary studies showed omicron’s ability to infect those who are considered fully vaccinated, the definition began shifting, if not formally, then practically, from two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccine to three.

“If you want to be optimally protected, absolutely get a booster,” Fauci said on ABC’s This Week, when asked if three shots will become the standard.

Robert Wachter, chair of the University of California, San Francisco’s department of medicine, said he thinks the definition change is coming soon. “It’s increasingly clear that if you have three shots, you’re in pretty good shape,” Wachter said during an online discussion about COVID-19 hosted by the San Francisco Chronicle on Dec. 10.

“I think we will stop calling people with two shots fully vaccinated within a week or two,” he said. “Omicron is going to make that case quite vividly.”


How many shots to be protected from omicron?

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will we need an omicron-specific booster to guard against the virus?

If two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are not enough to guard against omicron, would we need a variant-specific booster to restore protection? According to Fauci, no. “At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster,” Fauci said on Wednesday. “

But getting from the two-dose definition to three will take work. The CDC says more than 203 million people right now are “fully vaccinated” with the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. That’s 61% percent of the total US population. However, 58 million in the US have received a booster — only 28% percent of the population. “That’s why getting more Americans vaccinated and boosted is central to the president’s plan to fight COVID and confront omicron this winter,” said Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, during Wednesday’s White House briefing.

What about if you got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

This week, the CDC recommended people get one of the mRNA vaccines — Moderna’s or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine  — instead of Johnson & Johnson’s. The recommendation came a few days after a preliminary study out of South Africa suggested the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine may produce “virtually no antibody protection,” against omicron, Bloomberg News reported.

CNET reached out to Johnson & Johnson for a comment but didn’t immediately get a response.

What happens next?

Vaccine makers are already pushing for three doses as the new standard. “Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer Chairman Albert Bourla said in a statement on early results about the Pfizer vaccine’s continued effectiveness.

The next step would be for the CDC to change its definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated.” CNET reached out to the CDC for a comment but didn’t immediately get a response.

For more, here’s what we know about the omicron variant and how the new mutation compares with delta. And here’s how to store your vaccine card on your phone.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.