As it becomes clear that booster shots significantly improve protection against serious illness from the omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is shifting away from the phrase “fully vaccinated” in favor of calling people “up to date” on their COVID-19 vaccines.
“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,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing Friday.
“That means if you recently got your second dose and you’re not eligible for a booster, you’re up to date,” she continued. “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.”
But she clarified that the CDC is not attempting to change the definition of “fully vaccinated,” which could have implications for local ordinances that require some employees to be vaccinated in order to return to work.
The language shift comes the same day the CDC released three reports showing that receiving the booster dose after the initial round of shots offers significantly improved protection against being hospitalized with COVID-19. One of them found that three shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were nearly 70% effective against omicron-related symptoms when compared with unvaccinated people. With just two doses, the study found, people had no significant protection against omicron symptoms.
“It really shows the important of getting a booster dose,” the CDC’s Emma Accorsi, one of the study’s authors, said Friday.
As of Sunday, about 30% of fully vaccinated people in the U.S. have received their booster dose. It’s available to people as young as 12 depending on which type of vaccines they received previously.