The newest booster became available to the public around Labor Day weekend, and about 4.4 million people have gotten it as of Sept. 21, according to. That figure represents about 1.5% of the people eligible to receive the booster, reported.
The White House has said the total is probably closer to 5 million people. The CDC totals don’t yet include Texas and Idaho, which use an aggregate vaccination record reporting method for the Pfizer vaccine.
Scott Roberts, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist in New Haven, Conn., told NBC News the low numbers are “demoralizing.”
“I would expect a much higher proportion of Americans to have gotten the booster by this point,” he said. “The fact that this booster came out days before Biden said the pandemic is over is a huge mixed message. Now it’s going to be that much harder to convince those at risk who are on the fence to get a booster.”
White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, says he thinks demand will pick up in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been thinking and talking about this as an annual vaccine like the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine season picks up in late September and early October. We’re just getting our education campaign going. So we expect to see, despite the fact that this was a strong start, we actually expect this to ramp up stronger,” Dr. Jha said.
The new booster is the third one authorized by the federal government and was redesigned to protect against the currently circulating subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 of the Omicron strain. People who have received a primary vaccine series or a booster at least 2 months before can receive it.
The new Pfizer booster is available for people 12 and up and the Moderna version for people 18 and up. The vaccines can be mixed and matched.
A version of this article first appeared on.