Surgeon general defends COVID-19 boosters amid World Health Organization criticism

Providing COVID-19 booster shots to fully vaccinated U.S. citizens is an important effort to stay ahead of the virus, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.

Murthy defended the Biden administration’s plan, which has been criticized by the World Health Organization. The WHO said the vaccines should be prioritized for people around the globe — especially in developing countries — who have not yet received one shot.

“We don’t have a choice, we have to do both,” Murthy said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.” “We have to protect American lives and we have to help vaccinate the world because that is the only way this pandemic ends.”

He said the U.S. has already donated more than 120 million vaccine doses and has pledged to send more.

Booster shots are currently approved for some fully vaccinated people with compromised immune systems. Starting Sept. 20, some health care workers and the elderly who were fully vaccinated over eight months ago are eligible for a booster shot, which experts say is needed to counter any waning protection against COVID-19.

The highly contagious delta variant has caused an increase in COVID-19 cases around the country in recent weeks.

Use of boosters for this larger group of vaccinated people is still being reviewed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Murthy also said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the FDA gives final approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine early this week. The vaccine has been administered since December under an emergency use authorization.

Health experts believe full FDA approval could prompt more people to get vaccinated. Currently, 51.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

There were 59,521 new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. on Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, for a total of over 37 million cases since the pandemic started in 2020.

New York reported 4,340 new COVID-19 cases across the state on Saturday, including 323 in Nassau County and 425 in Suffolk County, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The daily rate of new positive cases on Saturday was 3.01% statewide and 4.05% on Long Island.

“COVID-19 remains a serious threat to New Yorkers, and with the delta variant spreading, the key to success is getting as many people vaccinated as we can,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The latest figures from the state show 59% of all eligible New Yorkers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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