U.S. weighing shorter timeline for COVID booster shots, says Biden

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal health authorities are discussing shortening the timeline for COVID-19 booster shots to allow additional doses sooner than the eight-month window officials have been targeting, President Joe Biden said on Friday.

For now, the planned timeline remains in place for adults to have another dose of the vaccine eight months after the original inoculation, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a news briefing later on Friday.

The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday said U.S. regulators could approve a third COVID-19 shot of the two-dose Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc-BioNTech AG beginning at least six months after full vaccination.

"The question raised is: should it be shorter than eight months, should it be as little as five months? That's being discussed," Biden told reporters at the White House, adding that he had discussed the issue with his chief medical officer, Dr. Anthony Fauci, earlier on Friday.

Biden said the U.S. booster program was "promising" and on track to start in mid-September, pending regulatory approval.

Top U.S. health officials, in a separate briefing on Friday, said U.S. cases of the coronavirus continue to rise amid the fast-spreading Delta variant. Vaccination rates were also higher, they said.

Deaths and cases were up 11% and 3% respectively over the past seven days nationwide, with hospitalizations up 6% over the past week to an eight-month high, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[L1N2PY1IF]

U.S officials are preparing to offer booster shots for all adults starting on Sept. 20, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.

Boosters are already approved for some U.S. patients with compromised immune systems.

Johnson & Johnson, which offers a one-shot COVID-19 vaccine, this week said early data showed a second booster dose increased antibodies against the virus and plans talks with U.S. regulators.

Some scientists and the World Health Organization have cast doubt on the need for an extra shot at this time, but Biden has said he plans to get one.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Susan Heavey; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and Heather Timmons; Editing by Dan Grebler and Rosalba O'Brien)