In Shift, Walensky Says CDC Not Examining Changing Definition of ‘Fully Vaccinated’

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.
November 3, 2021 Updated: November 4, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not examining changing the definition of “fully vaccinated,” its director said Wednesday.

“The definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ is one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and two doses of the either Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the agency, or the CDC, told reporters during a virtual briefing.

“And we’re not examining changing that definition anytime, at this point,” she added.

Walensky was questioned about the definition because federal health officials recently decided to let tens of millions of Americans get booster COVID-19 vaccine shots, including everybody who has gotten a Johnson & Johnson jab.

Additionally, a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for many private businesses is set to be published soon. It and many mandates across the country include the “fully vaccinated” term.

The federal requirements will follow the CDC’s guidance, Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 response team’s coordinator, told reporters.

The rule developed by the Department of Labor will apply to every business that has 100 or more employees.

Walensky sounded a different tune last month when she said that the definition of “fully vaccinated” had not been changed but “we will continue to look at this.”

“We may need to update our definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ in the future,” she added.

Those comments were a shift from earlier remarks Walensky delivered in September. She said at the time that federal health officials were not considering changing the definition of ‘fully vaccinated.'”

Israel recently adjusted its definition to include three doses of the messenger RNA-based vaccines and other countries like Australia have mulled making a similar change.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Walensky was also questioned on whether there will be discussion on recommending a single mRNA-based vaccine dose for young children who have natural immunity, or immunity from prior infection, against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

Pfizer’s vaccine was granted emergency use authorization for 5- to 11-year-olds by drug regulators last week and recommended to the entire age group by the CDC on Tuesday.

Some experts have called for the CDC to adjust its recommendations for people with natural immunity, especially children.

Walensky said data from Pfizer’s trial indicates that the vaccine is safe and effective in young children, adding “we absolutely recommend two doses of vaccines for these children.”

“We do know that after nearly all infectious diseases you have some protection from getting that infection again, but we don’t really know how long that lasts or how robust it is,” she added.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news and stories relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. He is based in Maryland.