The Biden administration does not have “any plans” to change the definition of “fully vaccinated” for COVID-19, health officials said Wednesday, after questions about whether the addition of a booster shot would change the standard.
The term “fully vaccinated” — a requirement used by many businesses and for travel — will remain defined as someone who has gotten the full, initial course of shots: two doses for Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines and one dose for Johnson & Johnson’s.
“Individuals are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if they’ve received their primary series. That definition is not changing,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
“We are now recommending that individuals stay up-to-date with additional doses that they are eligible for,” she explained.
Officials have emphasized that a booster shot is now critical for protection against the virus as the highly infectious omicron variant overtakes the spread, now responsible for the vast majority of U.S. COVID cases.
The term “up-to-date” will represent people who have gotten a booster shot, while “fully vaccinated” remains the same, officials said.
“That has not changed, and we do not have any plans to change that,” said White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser, first previewed the new language in an interview with Spectrum News last week.
He emphasized that definitions are not important, but protecting oneself with a booster shot is.
“People should put aside this concern about a definition and say, ‘If I want to be optimally protected, I should get boosted,’” he said.
The Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate for employers with 100 workers or more goes into effect this month along with its testing option, pending a Supreme Court look on Friday.
Employees under that mandate and any others will be considered fully vaccinated if they have a single Johnson & Johnson shot or two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — their primary series — officials confirmed Wednesday.