Before vaccinating health care workers, Dr. Orlowski, hospitals will need data on booster vaccination side effects so they know how to stagger vaccinations among their staff without affecting their ability to care for patients. “You can’t do the whole ICU at the same time,” she said, “because you don’t want everyone to have a fever and chills.”
In interviews on Tuesday, hospital officials and doctors generally supported calls for a booster vaccination. Unlike the vaccination campaign that started last winter, they said there will be enough doses this time around to make things run more smoothly.
Aug. 19, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET
“I think we’re running out of second chances,” said Dr. Matthew Harris, the medical director of the coronavirus vaccination program at Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system. “What keeps me up at night is the inevitability of a variant that doesn’t respond to the vaccine. So if we have that head start, I fully support it.”
Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, said his state has thousands of vaccine providers and can probably manage booster vaccinations without much change. “What caused so much of the urgency and frenzy of January through April was the delivery bottleneck,” he said. “I think it will be a completely different rollout for boosters than the first time it was recorded.”
The booster strategy has been discussed for several weeks, but a consensus on how to proceed was only reached in meetings this weekend. Officials said senior health officials all backed it, including surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy and the heads of the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The government has more than 100 million cans in stock that could be used for boosters, plus dozens more in freezers at pharmacies and other locations. The government has bought even more supplies slated for this fall, and officials say they are not worried about running out.
Federal health officials were particularly concerned about data from Israel suggesting the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine’s protection against serious illness has fallen significantly in older people who received their second vaccination in January or February.