Americans who have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses are considered fully vaccinated, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on Aug. 18.
“I think what’s very important for people to know is that if you’ve gotten both shots of your mRNA vaccine, you are fully vaccinated right now; you have full—you have a high degree of protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19,” Murthy told reporters during a virtual briefing.
The definition of fully vaccinated could prove important in the coming months. A growing number of jurisdictions are requiring proof of vaccination to enter businesses. At some point, people could be required to show proof of having received three doses, especially if health officials signal their support.
Murthy suggested that could come later, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine advisory panel, known as ACIP.
“Our recommendation down the line, pending the advice and the review of the FDA and ACIP … is that we believe that that third dose will ultimately be needed to provide the fullest and continual extent of protection that we think people need from the virus,” Murthy said.
Experts are keeping a close watch on whether vaccine mandates will transition into requiring boosters.
“Haven’t heard this debated yet … but in case the COVID events of the past month aren’t messy enough, wait for this one: When—and how—do vaccine mandates transition into booster mandates?” Bob Wachter, chair of the University of California–San Francisco’s Department of Medicine, wrote on Twitter this week.
Murthy, asked later on CNBC whether company chief executives should consider mandating boosters, said: “In my mind, this doesn’t change what workplaces are doing.
“Right now, if you’re a business that’s thinking about putting in requirements for vaccines, if you’re a university that’s considering that, nothing in today’s announcement should change what you’re doing.”
Murthy and other officials on Aug. 18 announced their plan to give even healthy adults a booster shot for the two vaccines built on messenger RNA technology. The mRNA vaccines, from Pfizer and Moderna, are by far the most widely administered in the United States. Each requires two shots, spaced several weeks apart.