U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the agency is preparing to “pivot the language” about what it means to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Individuals may no longer be considered fully vaccinated without a booster shot, she said during a White House COVID-19 response team press briefing Friday.
“Every year, you need a flu shot; you’re not up to date with your flu shot until you’ve gotten your flu shot for that year,” she elaborated. “And what we really are working to do is pivot the language to make sure that everybody is as up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines as they personally could be, should be, based on when they got their last vaccine.”
Those who “recently” got their second dose and are not eligible for a booster are considered up to date.
“If you are eligible for a booster and you haven’t gotten it, you’re not up to date and you need to get your booster in order to be up to date,” she stated.
In a previous briefing on Jan. 5, Walensky had said, “Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’ve received their primary series,” categorically saying also that “that definition is not changing.”
“But consistent with how public health has historically viewed or even talked about how we recommend vaccines, we are now recommending that individuals stay up to date with additional doses that they are eligible for,” the CDC director added. “And we have now available how you can stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines based on what vaccine you have received and what age group you are in. And that is available now on the CDC website.”
According to the CDC, about 63.4% of the U.S. population (210.5 million) is fully vaccinated, while more than 84.3 million people have received a booster dose as of Monday. Over 251 million people (75.6% of the U.S. population) have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC maintains that vaccines “protect against severe disease” and death from COVID-19.
A CDC data tracker suggests that more than 99% of new COVID-19 infections come from the omicron variant.
Walensky said earlier this month that most COVID-19 deaths were still from the delta variant and that the “risk of hospitalization remains low — especially among people who are up to date on their COVID vaccines.”
A recently published study of nearly 70,000 COVID-19 patients in California found that while the omicron variant represents the majority of new infections, it is associated with “reduced risk of severe clinical endpoints and shorter durations of hospital stay.”
On Sunday, thousands protested vaccine mandates on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
“This is not an anti-vax rally,” Sherry Walker, a Houston-based captain for United Airlines and the co-founder of Airline Employees for Health Freedom, said at the demonstration. “This is a rally to tell our government that we’re going to hold them accountable to illegal mandates, and in our specific case with Title VII with our employer.”
Pastor Tony Evans, the pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, said in a sermon this month that he also has an issue with people being told they must get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Our issue is against mandates, not against vaccinations if you choose to, and there are a whole lot of biblical reasons for that,” Evans said. “People don’t know what to do, and stuff keeps changing because God keeps messing stuff up. If you don’t see that, if all you see is the medical thing, then you are fighting on vaccines and non-vaccines. … Feel free to do what the Bible says. The whole Romans 14 says you are free to choose.”
“The whole chapter says you are free to choose,” he reiterated. “[Paul] comes to verse 23, and he says that ‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ So whatever decision you make, be able to trust God with it. That’s the issue. … People are going to make different decisions. … So you have to be comfortable and not be mandated.”