COVID booster shots to start going out after back and forth debate

Vaccinate PA

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — COVID vaccine booster shots are now approved after weeks of back and forth.

Health leaders agree that boosters should go out to seniors, people in long-term care facilities and those with underlying health conditions. The disagreement has been over whether to give booster shots to high-risk workers.

Earlier this week the FDA said high-risk workers should be among those eligible. Then a CDC panel said they shouldn’t be included.

Finally, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky went against the panel and sided with the FDA.

Dr. Graham Snyder is UPMC’s director of infection prevention and epidemiology. He says this back and forth is because the science around the pandemic is constantly adapting and changing according to the most recent data.

“This is the process of learning more about the virus and monitoring the conditions of the pandemic,” Snyder said.

Now the Pfizer booster shots are approved for anyone 65 and older, those in long-term care facilities, adults who have underlying medical conditions, and adults at high risk because of their jobs.

Dr. Donald Yealy, UPMC’s Chief Medical Officer, says the booster just gives an extra layer of protection.

“It really doesn’t add something dramatically new. It’s essentially a review session for your immune system,” Yealy said.

Doctors say anyone who isn’t eligible yet shouldn’t panic.

“There isn’t a rush for this. We will have a priority sequence so that we can manage getting extra doses to people,” Yealy said. But it’s not because there is a deficit in protection for the vast majority of the population.”

Health leaders say it’s likely everyone will be able to get a booster at some point.

There’s plenty of supply available to do that.

“I don’t anticipate the same rush or urgency, because we can satisfy the need much much better than we did when vaccine supply was markedly restricted,” Snyder said.

The boosters are health leaders’ way of being proactive to protect anyone whose immunity may be waning.

“It’s not because we’ve seen tremendous gaps in that protection from death or serious complication. It’s really to try and get in front of that,” Yealy said.

Many experts agree that the booster won’t be the way to stop the pandemic.

“It’s still most important if you have not received the vaccine to consider getting the vaccine,” Snyder said.

The boosters are only going out to those approved categories of people who are 6 months or more away from receiving their second dose of Pfizer.

People who got Moderna or J&J will have to wait for those shots to go through the same approval process.

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