Surgeon General Murthy Defends Booster Shots, 'Very Reasonable' Vaccine Requirements

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy took to the Sunday morning news shows to defend the United States' COVID-19 vaccine booster policy, as well as businesses and colleges mandating the vaccine.

On CNN's State of the Union, Murthy said businesses and schools requiring the COVID-19 vaccine is an "absolutely reasonable" policy. Across the country, many businesses, school districts and colleges have implemented vaccine mandates. New York City, for example, is requiring people to be vaccinated to go to gyms or restaurants.

"We already know that there are many businesses and universities that have moved toward vaccine requirements, and I think it's a very reasonable thing to do to create a safe environment," he said.

Murthy said an expected full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine could potentially help businesses and colleges that are considering a vaccine requirement "move forward with those kinds of plans."

He also said requiring employees in schools, including teachers and staff, to be vaccinated—a policy implemented in some states, including Oregon—is reasonable to "create a safer environment for ours kids."

"We're faced with the most transmissible variant that we've seen to date, the Delta variant. When we have our kids—essentially, is the point of concern here in our schools—and their health and well-being on the line. We've got to take every step we can," he explained.

The surgeon general said getting protection from the vaccine is more important than ever due to the Delta variant, which has caused a surge in new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. On Saturday, the U.S. had a 7-day-average of 151,227 new cases per day, compared to an average of 41,543 just one month earlier, according to data from The New York Times.

"We've had strong evidence from real-world data that this vaccine has been doing remarkably well and has maintained a strong safety profile," he said. "We've given it to hundreds of millions of people and we've seen that it's doing its job."

Murthy also appeared on ABC News' This Week Sunday to discuss booster shots, explaining the vaccines continue to work—but a decline in "protection against mild and moderate disease" leads experts to anticipate an erosion down the line.

"That's why to stay ahead of this virus, we're recommended people start to get boosters the week of September 20," he said, anticipating similar guidance to be issued for people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it is prepared to offer booster shots to people beginning September 20. Health officials recommend people get their booster shots eight months after receiving their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

But World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is "unconscionable" that wealthy countries are giving their citizens booster shots while other, poorer nations remain unprotected. Africa's WHO Director Matshidiso Moeti agreed with the sentiment.

"We are urging wealthier countries that have supplies that are sometimes even more than their population numbers to increase their donations to African countries that have been so disadvantaged," Moeti said Thursday.

Murthy defended the booster shots, saying "we have to protect the American lives, and we have to vaccinate the world." He added the focus should be on increasing the supply of vaccines, pointing out that the U.S. has committed to donating hundreds of millions of doses and worked with other countries to increase manufacturing capacities.

"We have to work on both fronts," he said. "That is the only way the pandemic will end."

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Health & Human Services for further comment Sunday morning, but had not heard back by publication. This story will be updated with any response.

Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said businesses and colleges mandating the COVID-19 vaccine is “very reasonable” on CNN Sunday. Above, Murthy speaks during a news conference at the White House on July 15. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images