KU Health official explains who may qualify as high risk to get Pfizer COVID-19 boosters

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Earlier this week, the FDA authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot for emergency use.

Thursday afternoon, the CDC made its recommendation about who is eligible for that booster shot and when it should be given.

The Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot will be available to people over 65, six months after the initial round of vaccines.

Other populations are also included.

“Right now. They’re, they’re calling it a booster, but who knows moving forward? Three doses may be considered fully vaccinated,” said Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control for the University of Kansas Health System, Dr. Dana Hawkinson.

There is a difference between a booster shot and third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some people who are immunocompromised do not build enough protection from the first doses of vaccine and a third dose can help their bodies develop more antibodies to fight the virus.

A booster refers to a shot given to a patient who did get vaccinated and initially build up antibodies but their protection has decreased over time.

After the FDA authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 booster for emergency use, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended it for people 65 and older, long term care facility residents and people over 50 with certain underlying health conditions.

The booster should be given at least six months after the initial rounds of vaccination.

“Hopefully, we will see some other specifics because right now, there is a vagueness about at risk populations,” Hawkinson said. “I’m speculating, but I do anticipate it may be things like diabetes, obesity, chronic lung disease, chronic heart disease. Those types of things are going to put people at risk of further disease as well so they may be included.”

Ken MacNevin will be one of the first in line for the booster shot. He was one of the children in the polio vaccine trial in the 50’s.

“People in the United States were brought to tears with joy that they had something that could stop a killer and tore families apart,” MacNevin said. “Why people have let themselves, for whatever reason, to be betrayed by their emotions and not realize how important this is is past me.”

Hawkinson believes not only will the booster help better protect those who get it in the long term, but could also protect them from spreading it.

“We know that prior to Delta, the vaccine really looked like it was stopping or decreasing transmission significantly. We still believe that happens, just maybe not to the proportion that it was prior to Delta,” Hawkinson said. “But we still do believe there is a transmission benefit there as well.”

Boosters for Moderna and the Johnson and Johnson vaccines are expected to follow.

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