San Juan Basin Public Health anticipates it will be able to offer residents age 65 and older, who have received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, booster shots sometime this week.
Taking notice of the Food an Drug Administration’s decision last week to approve recommendations of boosters, SJBPH anticipates the state of Colorado and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will approve vaccine boosters later this week.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday and Thursday to review the FDA’s approval and decide if it will also approve Pfizer boosters for older populations.
“SJBPH recognizes that the FDA has taken the first step toward authorizing a booster dose to better protect older adults and vulnerable populations,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, on Friday. “SJBPH will administer booster doses when we receive full authorization from the CDC and state of Colorado, potentially late next week.”
SJBPH reminds residents that their vaccines are still effective. While not 100% effective in stopping transmission, they are highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death.
“Fully vaccinated residents are still well protected, especially from hospitalization and death, but the science is showing that a booster dose will provide additional immunity,” Jollon said. “For people who have yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, the most important thing is that you get the lifesaving vaccine right away.”
In response to a growing number of delta variant hospitalizations in the area, SJBPH said the science suggests the effectiveness of vaccines wane slowly over time.
“We do observe breakthrough cases where fully vaccinated people get sick, and these are distributed across all age demographics, but most of our hospitalizations and serious illness since the pandemic began have been with older adults,” said SJBPH spokesman Chandler Griffin. “So the booster should provide additional protection for the older adults who we know are more likely to have severe illness if they do get sick.”
In addition to people 65 and older, the FDA panel unanimously supported authorization of a booster dose of Pfizer for health care workers or others at high risk of occupational COVID-19 exposure.
Currently, only moderately to severely immunocompromised people ages 12 and older are eligible for a third dose of vaccine. For the immunocompromised, third doses should be administered at least four weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Vaccine recipients are advised to seek the same mRNA vaccine they originally received. If the matching vaccine type is not available, immunocompromised people may receive the alternative mRNA vaccine.
“We do want immunocompromised people to take advantage of their eligibility for an additional dose,” Griffin said. “Some people have already come forward, but we expect that there may be more immunocompromised people out there, and they should find a clinic or talk with their primary care provider if they have any questions.“
A third shot for immunocompromised people is not considered a booster, but actually a third dose. Because of their conditions, the CDC and FDA recommend increasing dosage in the immunocompromised.
“It was determined that they needed a dosage adjustment, in an increase of what they received in order for their immune system to have the appropriate response,” Griffin said.
Griffin said as soon as SJBPH has authorization from the state and federal government to begin administering boosters, it will do so.
“We will announce details to the community and are prepared to start administering the boosters right away,” Griffin said.