But according to a report from NBC News, Abbott may have been even more protected against the ravages of COVID-19 than typical Texans who did their part to slow the virus’ spread by getting inoculated against the coronavirus.
Citing to two anonymous sources close to Abbott, NBC reported Tuesday night that Abbott “has told people he received a third booster dose of a vaccine,” despite the fact that additional booster shots had as of then yet to be approved for all but the most immunocompromised Americans, a group that makes up approximately 3 percent of the United States’ population according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On Wednesday morning, the CDC officially announced it is recommending that booster shots start being given to millions of Americans who have already been vaccinated, but that those extra shots won’t begin rolling out until the fall.
Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze told the Texas Tribune that she was “not aware of any booster” that Abbott may or may not have received, a response that did nothing to address the questions now percolating about whether the governor used his powers to cut the line and receive an additional vaccine dose before extra shots were authorized for the broader public.
Abbot's positive COVID diagnosis drew national attention, due in large part to his refusal to bow to pressure to do away with his executive orders that have attempted to forbid local officials and school leaders from issuing mask mandates to protect the communities they serve. Abbott continues to stress that "personal responsibility" is the only path forward through the pandemic, despite Texas case counts and hospitalizations skyrocketing to unseen levels over the past several weeks.
The report about Abbott’s supposed booster shot came hours before the CDC formally announced Wednesday morning that the federal government is planning to offer and recommend booster shots to all Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with either the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The CDC’s new plan calls for the extra shots to be administered eight months after a person receives the second shot of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine. The agency said booster shots could start rolling out as soon as September 20.
On Wednesday morning, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained that “The available data make very clear that protection against [COVID-19} infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout.”
“For that reason,” Walensky continued, “we concluded that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
Representatives from the Houston Health Department and Harris County Public Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Houston Press on each organization’s plans for administering booster vaccine doses.
“We also anticipate booster shots will likely be needed for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Walensky said, though she said her agency is still awaiting more data on the length of protection offered by the Johnson & Johnson vaccine considering it was only authorized for use in March 2021, several months after Pfizer and Moderna shots were authorized for emergency use.
“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape,” Walensky said. “We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it.”
Abbott took to Twitter Tuesday evening with a short video post about how he did indeed have COVID but was feeling fine and dandy so far, and that the Pfizer vaccine he received “may” be one reason he’s faring so well.
“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape.” - Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director
“I also want you to know that I have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and that may be one reason why I’m not really feeling any symptoms right now,” Abbott said, for some reason downplaying that the protection offered by his Pfizer shot regimen is almost assuredly the main reason why he’s feeling fine.
As you may have heard, I have Covid.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) August 17, 2021
Right now I have no symptoms such as fever or aches and pains.
Thanks for the well wishes from around the country.
I will remain engaged every day to govern the great state of Texas.
God bless you all, and God bless Texas. pic.twitter.com/kbYPt1FpNj
The 63-year-old Abbott claimed he’s experienced no symptoms whatsoever, even though the expensive Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment his office confirmed the governor is receiving has only been authorized by the CDC for use in those “who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19,” a group that “includes those who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions."
Update 5:19 p.m.:
Wednesday afternoon, the Houston Health Department said in a statement to the Press that it “is currently developing a plan to offer booster shots” of the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, but the plan will only be finalized “after the FDA approves the booster shots and the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices issues dose recommendations.”
“The department may need to modify the plan in the next several weeks depending when additional guidance from the federal government becomes available,” the statement continued, before urging the unvaccinated “to get a COVID-19 shot now.”
Later on Wednesday, President Joe Biden addressed the nation about the ongoing “pandemic of the unvaccinated” spurred by the Delta variant, voicing his support for the CDC’s decision earlier in the day to authorize vaccine booster shots starting in late September.
In addition, Biden outlined a number of steps the federal government is taking to increase vaccination rates and force the hands of states including Texas who have tried to block schools from issuing mask mandates.
First, Biden announced his Department of Health and Human Services will develop new regulations to force employees of nursing homes to get vaccinated if they want to keep getting federal Medicaid and Medicare dollars. He referenced the fact that vaccination rates among nursing home staffers have lagged behind the rest of the country, and declared he was intent on “using the power of the federal government as a payer of health care costs to ensure we reduce those risks to our most vulnerable seniors.”
Biden also said he plans to direct Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to use “legal action if appropriate” to challenge governors like Abbott who have tried to prevent school districts from issuing mask orders of their own, but didn’t go into specifics of how such legal challenges would work.
While he didn’t mention Abbott by name, Biden blasted Republican governors who have opposed classroom mask mandates.
“They’re setting a dangerous tone. This isn’t about politics, it’s about keeping our children safe,” Biden said.