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San Juan Basin Public Health begins offering Pfizer booster shots

Doses are for those 65 and older or with underlying health issues
Mark James receives his COVID-19 vaccine booster shot on Friday at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. James said he got the booster at the recommendation of his personal physician. San Juan Basin Public Health now offers Pfizer booster shots to residents who are 65 and older, high-risk workers, have underlying health issues or are in an institutional setting. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

San Juan Basin Public Health has begun offering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to residents who have already received the Pfizer vaccine and are 65 and older.

Others who are eligible include those employed in high-risk professions, have underlying health issues or are in an institutional setting.

SJBPH said it anticipated approval from the state of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the boosters, and was prepared to begin administering the vaccines immediately in Archuleta and La Plata counties.

Booster shots can be administered at least six months after recipients complete the two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine.

The booster doses are authorized only for people who originally received the Pfizer vaccine. Additional federal and state review is required before booster shots can be approved for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

People with underlying health conditions who can receive Pfizer boosters include, but are not limited to:

  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Chronic lung disease.
  • Cancer.

High-risk workers and those in an institutional setting who can receive boosters include:

  • Health care workers.
  • First responders.
  • Teachers and day care staff members.
  • Grocery workers.
  • People in long-term care facilities.
  • Homeless shelters.
  • Prisons or other congregate settings.

SJBPH clinics operated in partnership with Jogan Health Solutions will administer booster shots at all scheduled clinics.

In addition to SJBPH clinics, two reoccurring clinics in Archuleta and La Plata counties will offer boosters and have the ability to accommodate a high volume of patients. Those clinics are the La Plata County Fairgrounds, at 2500 Main Ave., in Durango; and Pagosa Middle School, 309 Lewis St., in Pagosa Springs. It is recommended that residents make an appointment.

“The CDC, FDA and the scientific research now support boosters as a way to provide additional protection for our more vulnerable populations,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director. “We hope that eligible individuals will jump on this opportunity to build more immunity right away.”

People with compromised immune systems have been able to receive a third dose of the vaccine for some time now. The CDC’s authorization for immunocompromised people refers only to the mRNA vaccines, which are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Immunocompromised people are advised to seek the same mRNA vaccine that they originally received. If the matching vaccine type is not available, immunocompromised people may receive the alternative mRNA vaccine.

An additional dose has not been recommended yet for immunocompromised people who originally received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

SJBPH said the vaccines are still effective for people who already received them, and encourage those who have not yet received a vaccine to do so.

“Residents who have been fully vaccinated are still well protected, especially against hospitalization and death, but evidence shows that a booster dose will provide even more protection,” Jollon said. “Our top priority continues to be people who have yet to receive a single dose of vaccine – answering their questions and providing easy access to the COVID-19 vaccine.”

According to the CDC, both La Plata and Archuleta counties are at high risk for infection.

La Plata County’s one-week case incidence rate is the highest it has been since January of this year. High transmission rates are likely because of the delta variant.

Beyond getting vaccinated and receiving a booster if applicable, SJBPH asks everyone to wear masks inside businesses and inside public settings.

njohnson@durangoherald.com

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