Community, Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

Justice and team: CDC opens door for Pfizer boosters for those six months past second dose

MORGANTOWN — The CDC opened the door on Friday for just about anyone who’s had the Pfizer vaccine to get a booster, Gov. Jim Justice said, and he urged people to do it.

“Without question in any way, go get the booster shot, go get the booster shot now,” he said.

The CDC announced Friday that Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccines for certain populations who are six months or more past their second dose.

The CDC broke the recommendation into four categories: people age 65 years and up and residents in long-term care settings; people age 50–64 with underlying medical conditions; people age 18–49 with underlying medical conditions, based on their individual benefits and risks; and people age 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting.

The first two groups “should” get the booster, CDC said, and the last two groups “may” get it.

“With the Delta variant’s dominance as the circulating strain and cases of COVID-19 increasing significantly across the United States, a booster shot will help strengthen protection against severe disease in those populations who are at high-risk for exposure to COVID-19 or the complications from severe disease,” CDC said.

Justice said that fourth category is what opens the door for pretty much anyone who’s six months out and wants the extra protection to go ahead and seek the booster.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer said booster shots are now being given and are available at pharmacies, community clinics, hospitals and at some primary care provider offices.

COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh again cited the research that shows that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness wanes over time, and when Israel started offering the Pfizer booster for ages 60 and up at six months out, it improved effectiveness to 86%.

He also noted the “predictable and concerning” statistic that 20% of the state’s COVID hospitalizations are breakthroughs, illustrating the need for the booster.

Justice and his team emphasized that the boosters are only for those who’ve had the Pfizer vaccine. In the CDC announcement, Walensky said, “We will address, with the same sense of urgency, recommendations for the Moderna and J&J vaccines as soon as those data are available.”

It takes about two weeks for the Pfizer vaccine to be fully effective after the second dose, and The Dominion Post asked how long it takes for the booster to kick in. Marsh said Israel saw a significant reduction in cases after 10 to 13 days and the target for full booster effectiveness is about 10 days.

The Dominion Post also asked if there’s any flex in the six-month window for those who may be facing exposure and are a few days away from the exact date. Marsh said they should talk to the provider or pharmacist where they will be seeking the booster about their willingness to be flexible.

Justice noted that the flu vaccine is also now available, and the COVID and flu vaccines can be given at the same time.

Active COVID cases are still on a downward trend following last week’s peak of 29,744, but took a slight swing upward from Wednesday — from 15,177 to 16,223.

Bearing out previous warnings that the peak of hospitalizations, ICU cases and ventilator cases all will lag two-to-six weeks behind the new and active case peak, all three numbers were again at record highs Friday: 1,008; 289; and 187, respectively.

Justice continued to push not just boosters but vaccinations for all, following Wednesday’s news that the CDC had been double-counting vaccines given at pharmacies. Friday’s rate for first doses for the eligible population — age 12 and up — was 63.9%, and the rate for full vaccination for that group was 56.1%.

Justice said 3,700 people had been vaccinated since Wednesday, but that’s not nearly good enough given the state’s overall low rate, and he told listeners to spread the vaccine word. “Push ’em and urge ’em in every way, every way you possibly can.”

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp