Americans over 60 should get another booster shot of a coronavirus vaccine, said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, the new Covid-19 response coordinator at the White House, on Sunday citing “fairly compelling” new data from Israel indicating that a fourth shot significantly reduced infections and deaths among elderly people there.
Dr. Jha’s comments, on “Fox News Sunday,” came after the Food and Drug Administration on March 29th authorized second booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna coronavirus vaccines for all 50 years and older.
The FDA said the move was an attempt to bolster declining immunity to serious illness when the more contagious subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, emerged as the dominant version of the virus in the United States.
Asked if Americans should get an extra booster shot, Dr. Jha, who was appointed Biden Administration’s Covid-19 Response Coordinator last month, on research from Israel it indicated that a fourth shot provided strong protection, especially against serious illness, in persons over 60.
“The data from Israel is pretty compelling for people over 60,” he said. “When people got the second booster shot four months after their first booster, it was a significant reduction, not only in infections, but in deaths. So I think people over 60 should get it.”
The Israel study did not provide data on the effectiveness of another booster in people under 60 years of age. Israel approved a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 60 years and older and for other high-risk populations in January.
In a separate look on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos“Dr. Jha said that another booster shot for Americans between 50 and 59” is a much closer call. “People in that age group should consult a doctor before getting another booster, he said.
“fifty to 59, you’re eligible,” he said, noting that whether to get an extra booster depends on a person’s risk profile.
“But for me, based on data, 60 and above, I think that’s very reasonable,” he said. “This is what I have recommended to my elderly parents, and this is what I think people should do.”
Dr. Jha said it still remains to be seen whether BA.2 would cause more serious disease than previous variants and sub-variants of the virus. Cases are ticking up, but hospitalizations “are at the lowest level of the pandemic,” he said on “Meet the Press.”
“The good news is that our vaccines hold up really well against BA.2, against all Omicron variants, especially if you’ve been boosted,” he said. “So the key here is that you have to have the first two shots and you have to have a booster. That’s what really protects people in this moment.”