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Who gets a Pfizer booster shot? Here’s what to know about getting a third dose

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 27, 2021

President Joe Biden receives a COVID-19 booster shot during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Washington.  (Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden receives a COVID-19 booster shot during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Evan Vucci)

It might be time to roll up your sleeve again for a booster dose of your COVID-19 vaccine.

Late last week, both federal and state health agencies gave the green light for certain age groups and higher risk groups to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

President Joe Biden received his booster shot Monday, and local pharmacies as well as the Spokane Regional Health District are preparing to get boosters out to those who need them.

Can I mix and match vaccine doses?

No. Currently, the booster doses available are for those people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccine. If you received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, hang tight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects both companies to submit data on the effectiveness of booster doses for these vaccines soon.

Who should get a booster?

Six months after getting the Pfizer two-dose vaccine, booster doses are recommended for the following groups:

  • People 65 and older.
  • People living in a long-term care facility.
  • People 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions.

The risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 is higher for older populations, as well as for those people with underlying medical conditions. Long-term care settings have seen outbreaks throughout the pandemic, and residents in these settings are typically at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19.

Who else can get a booster at this time?

Six months after getting the Pfizer two-dose vaccine, the following groups may get a booster dose, according to the CDC:

  • People 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions.
  • People at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to occupational or institutional setting. This includes: health care workers, first responders, teachers and daycare workers, food and agriculture workers, manufacturing workers, corrections officers, postal service and public transit workers, grocery store workers.

What is the Pfizer booster?

The Pfizer booster is the same formulation as the original vaccine and the same dosage as each dose given previously. The state has sufficient supplies of Pfizer vaccine to offer boosters, and the Department of Health is coordinating booster dose rollout details this week.

Why do we need boosters?

Vaccines remain very effective at preventing severe illness requiring hospitalization and death due to COVID-19. In Washington, 90.3% of COVID hospitalizations from Feb. 1 to Aug. 31 were in partially vaccinated or unvaccinated residents. Unvaccinated 12- to 34-year-olds are 30 times more likely to be hospitalized for the virus compared to their fully vaccinated peers in Washington.

The vaccines do appear to have waning or decreased immunity over time, and with the delta variant circulating nationwide, booster doses may offer additional protection by boosting a person’s immune response six months after they have been fully vaccinated. People with certain underlying medical conditions and those older than 65 are most at-risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, but the delta variant has sickened and hospitalized people in all age groups. Health officials continue to stress the importance of everyone 16 and older getting vaccinated against the virus in order to not only stop the spread of the delta variant but protect themselves from being hospitalized.

Vaccines are not like light switches; they are like dials, State Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters last week. So there’s no rush for getting a booster shot immediately at the six-month mark post vaccination. Immunity appears to wane gradually with the COVID vaccines, and those who aren’t eligible for a booster now need not be fearful that they are walking around unprotected if they have been fully vaccinated.

If I’m not in an eligible group for a booster, when will I be?

The CDC is continuing to follow the data and evaluate vaccine effectiveness in different populations and groups as the delta variant circulates.

If you are in a certain eligible booster group, but you have more questions, talk to your health care provider about whether or not you should get a booster dose.

If you received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosters are not yet approved for these vaccines, although the CDC expects both manufacturers to offer boosters. When the data is sufficient, vaccine producers will submit it to the Food and Drug Administration and then the CDC will review that data before authorizing boosters for use.

Where can I get my booster dose?

Vaccines are widely available in Spokane County, but they might not be at the same location you got your original vaccine. You can use the state’s vaccine locator or call (800) 525-0127, then press #. Many local health care providers and pharmacies are offering COVID-19 vaccines. The Department of Health is working with vaccine providers this week to implement booster dose planning and administration statewide.

What do I need to bring with me to my booster dose appointment?

Bring your vaccine card. Your vaccine card will say when you received your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, thus confirming for health care staff that you are six months past your vaccination and eligible for a booster.

If you do not have your vaccine card or lost it, Washington residents can access vaccination records online at myirmobile.com.

To learn more about booster doses and look at the data behind the recommendations visit the CDC’s booster dose webpage.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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