States and major pharmacy chains have already begun rolling out the boosters
Tens of millions more Americans are now eligible for a third dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine, and states have already begun rolling out the shots.
Who can get a booster shot now? Per U.S. regulators, the following groups are now eligible for booster shots, provided they were fully vaccinated with the two-dose Pfizer COVID vaccine at least six months ago:“The majority of Americans who were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine are now able to receive the booster shot six months after they’ve received their second shot,” President Biden said during White House remarks on Friday. He said that 20 million people now fall under that category, which will rise to over 60 million in the next few months.
Where will booster shots be administered? Booster shots are expected to be available at the same places COVID vaccines are now being administered: retail pharmacies (including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Meijer, and Hy-Vee), doctor’s offices, and small vaccine clinics.
Most major retail pharmacies have instructed would-be booster recipients to make an appointment for the shot ahead of time. Are the booster shots free? Yes. How long after being vaccinated should people wait before getting a booster? Those with weaker immune systems are at the top of the line for boosters in order to supercharge their own antibody response. According to the federal health agencies, everyone who is eligible should wait until at least six months after their second shot to get a booster. Additionally, getting a booster shot too soon may not increase your antibodies significantly. headtopics.com
“Our decision today is not about who deserves a booster but who needs a booster,” Dr. Matthew Daley, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, said during this week’s ACIP meeting on boosters. “If you are in a group for whom a booster isn’t recommended today, the reason the booster isn’t recommended for you today is because the vaccine efficacy against serious outcomes is already high for those who have gotten the primary series.”
Are booster shots safe? So far, side effects from an additional COVID-19 vaccine dose were similar to the primary vaccination series. A survey from Israel — the first country to officially offer a third dose — found that 88 percent of Pfizer vaccine recipients said that they felt “similar or better” in the days after their third dose than they did after the second jab. The most common side effect, like with the first two-dose regimen, was soreness at the injection site. But there’s still limited data; experts at this week’s ACIP meeting raised concerns about a third shot increasing serious side effects like heart inflammation, though they’re extremely rare.
“When you look at how safe the first and the second doses of the vaccines have been, I have the inclination to think that even the third dose would continue to be quite safe,” Dr. Boghuma Titanji, infectious disease specialist at Emory University, told NPR. “But if you’re rolling it out as a policy that then extends to millions of people, you need to show that the safety continues to hold up.”
What about people who were vaccinated with Moderna or Johnson & Johnson? The CDC has not yet considered boosters for Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. On Friday, Biden told the nation that those who received these other brands “still have a high degree of protection” and will be able to get shots later. Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday that it submitted data showing that an extra dose of its vaccine raises protection against infection to 94 percent; a decision on that booster could come within weeks, reports CNBC. headtopics.com
Why did the CDC disagree with its own advisory panel on booster shots for people in high-risk occupations? The CDC endorsed booster shots for Pfizer vaccine recipients aged 18 to 64 whose jobs place them at higher risk of exposure to the coronavirus, despite the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices ruling against that. CDC director Rochelle Walensky ultimately disagreed with the panel’s decision, announcing that she wanted to keep the CDC’s official recommendation in line with the FDA’s earlier authorization of the occupational boosters.
The rare break with the ACIP has prompted some pushback, both over concerns that the CDC is being more aggressive with boosters than the current science necessitates, and that the disagreement might exacerbate confusion and hesitancy toward the boosters and COVID vaccines, overall.
There has also been plenty of support for the decision. The country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, backed up Walensky on Friday, telling Politico that he agreed with her call and adding that “Dr. Walensky made a good judgment and showed good leadership in making that decision.” Numerous other COVID experts have also come out in support of Walensky’s decision, including former Brown School of Public Health dean Ashish Jha, who told Politico that he thought the ACIP seemed to be needlessly concerned “that there were too many people that were going to become eligible at once.”
Dr. Katherine Poehling, one of the ACIP members who voted against making boosters available for frontline workers, also indicated that she supported Walensky’s decision to overrule her recommendation. “We’re an advisory committee, and I felt like our perspectives were clearly heard. And so I felt like the process actually worked well,” Poeling told CNBC reporter Meg Tirrell, emphasizing that the official CDC recommendation allowed those workers to make their own choice as to whether or not to get a booster. In other words, she thinks Wallensky incorporated their concerns into the recommendation. headtopics.com
Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist at NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine, offered more conditional support, explaining that while available data doesn’t indicate that boosters will offer people in high risk occupations more protection against severe illness, it does make sense to use them to prevent breakthrough infections among health care workers, which might prevent them from being to able to work, or make their workplaces less safe.Read more: New York Magazine »
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