Let’s talk about boosters for the COVID-19 vaccines … again.
A lot has happened since Sept. 20, the day the White House had initially promised that boosters would be available to everyone.
To summarize many hours of meetings, presentations, discussions and votes:
- On Wednesday, the FDA expanded the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to include a booster — not for everyone, but specific types of people who are at high risk of really bad COVID.
- The next day, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met to consider which recommendations the agency should give about who should get a booster shot of Pfizer. The committee said that people who are 65+, and those 50-64 who have certain “underlying medical conditions,” should get a Pfizer booster, and that younger adults who have those same medical conditions could get one too, though they should weigh “individual benefit and risk.”
- Then, today — Friday, Sept. 24 — CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky adopted most of those recommendations, though she did add an additional one that the committee had rejected: that adults who work in jobs with a higher risk of exposure to COVID, such as healthcare workers, “may” also get a booster.
- The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup also weighed in, affirming the CDC's recommendations and adding that "social determinants of vulnerability" should also be considered when determining if someone is in need of a booster.
Which means Pfizer boosters will be available to eligible Californians who got Pfizer for their first two doses at least six months ago.
But who will be eligible for a booster? From our appropriately named guide “ “Here’s How To Get A Third COVID Shot In Southern California”:
For now, here’s what the CDC guidance says:
- If you’re 65 years old or older or live in a long term care facility — and you got Pfizer for your first two doses — you should get a booster shot of Pfizer at least six months after you completed your second one.
- If you’re between ages 50-64 and have an “underlying medical condition” that puts you at a higher risk of “severe COVID-19” — so something like a heart condition, lung disease, or cancer (more are listed here) — and you got Pfizer for your first two doses, you too should get a booster shot of Pfizer at least six months after you completed your second one.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. The CDC says other groups “may” get a booster of Pfizer at least six months after the second dose after weighing “their individual benefits and risks” — ideally in consultation with a healthcare professional. Those include:
- If you’re an adult (so 18+) who has one of those same “underlying medical conditions” that put you at an elevated risk of more severe COVID-19.
- If you’re an adult (18+) who works or lives in a setting where you’re at an “increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission.”
Here in Los Angeles County, Department of Public Health director Barbara Ferrer says they’re ready to start administering Pfizer doses to those who are eligible, though getting shots to people who haven’t been vaccinated at all is still a top priority.
There are about 420,000 people in L.A. County who are both 65 or older and who got two Pfizer doses by the end of March. They will be coming up for booster eligibility at the beginning of October, according to Ferrer.
“With capacity to be at 130,000 doses a day, we ought not to have a capacity issue, and it shouldn’t take us that long,” Ferrer told reporters.
One challenge, though, locally: the vast majority of residents of L.A. County skilled nursing facilities were initially vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, thus making them ineligible — for now — for a Pfizer booster.
Ferrer had some advice for them — and others — who may not be eligible for a booster just yet.
“I would urge people to wait. Let the scientific community do what they’ve been doing: review all the data, and make determinations based on the science,” Ferrer explained.
If you are eligible and decide, hopefully in consultation with your medical provider, that you want a booster, you can make an appointment or walk-up to many vaccine sites that offer the Pfizer vaccine, including those listed on the the state's vaccine portal myturn.ca.gov. You will have to bring proof of your first two Pfizer doses, and may be asked to self-attest that you are, in fact, eligible.
This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.