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The U.S. Hasn’t OK’d Boosters For Those Who Got the J&J Vaccine. But Some Are Getting One Anyway.

[Writer’s disclosure: I got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in March 2021, but have not gotten a booster]

The Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a joint statement last month that “Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time.” As the Delta variant of the coronavirus started to spread across the United States, people who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine were told they had the best chance of resisting an infection even without a mask. But with increased cases in nearly every state, the CDC revised its guidelines to recommend that even vaccinated people should wear masks in high-risk areas or when entering public establishments. And while there has been talk of vaccine boosters to get the vaccinated through what promises to be a difficult winter, no boosters have yet been mandated or even approved by the United States.

But that’s not stopping some people who want that extra level of protection. Some vaccinated Americans are taking it upon themselves to get an additional vaccination since they’re so readily available. But health experts say that’s not the best idea.

COVID vaccine distirbution
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]
Dr. Peter Marks, a senior official at the FDA, said the agency does not recommend “taking things into your own hands” when it comes to booster shots. “It’s actually not something you’re supposed to do under emergency use authorization,” Marks said Tuesday at an event hosted by the Covid-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project, referring to the federal approval given to Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

The apparent wave of interest in additional shots nonetheless underscores the heightened anxiety over the delta variant, which is the most contagious coronavirus mutation to emerge so far in the pandemic.

In a statement Tuesday night, Johnson & Johnson said its single-dose vaccine provides two mechanisms of protection — antibody and T-cell immune responses — that “persisted through eight months after immunization.” What’s more, a real-world study of health care workers in South Africa previewed Friday suggests that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is 71 percent effective against the delta variant at preventing hospitalization and over 90 effective at preventing death.

The use of boosters is more common in Canada and some European countries. Germany’s government has said Chancellor Angela Merkel got a Moderna shot in June after getting one from AstraZeneca in April. Israel has started giving a third shot to certain vulnerable people. And the United States, despite not being there yet, is probably not too far behind.

At least one U.S. city is offering more flexibility. The San Francisco Department of Public Health announced last week it will offer what it called a “supplemental” dose of the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccines to anyone who got the single-dose J&J. However, San Francisco officials made clear that the decision does not reflect a policy change. They still do not recommend a booster shot, saying in a statement that they are simply allowing “accommodations” for people who have consulted with their doctor.



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