On Aug. 13, following approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended certain immunocompromised people geta third COVID-19dosefor both thePfizer-BioNTech andModerna vaccines.
Here is an explanation of the science behind the shot, who is eligible to get one and how, according to local health leaders and government guidance.
More: Pfizer COVID vaccine gets full FDA approval as most hospitalized remain unvaccinated
More: Alachua County Commission approves one-week mask mandate as COVID-19 cases rise
Dr. Michael Lauzardo, director of the University of FloridaHealth Screen, Test & Protect
and deputy director of the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, said the booster shot is just a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
The booster is intended to combat waning immunity, he said.And for the immunocompromised, who are more vulnerable to serious illness and may not build as much immunity as others to the two-dose series, a third shot can help protect against the virus.
"Its the same dose, same thing. Its indistinguishable," he said.
The CDC recommends a booster shot at least four weeks after thesecond vaccine dose for "moderately to severely immunocompromised people," including those who have:
At UF, to get the extra dose, all you need to do is sign a form attesting that you are immunocompromised, Lauzardo said. You don't need a doctor's noteor an appointment. And it is still free.
"We dont want any delays," he said.
The doctor cautioned to follow medical guidance and not assume that getting as many doses as possible is best. Don't try and get a fourth dose, for example.
The process is similar with the Alachua County Department of Health, according to Administrator Paul Myers. People can walk up to a clinic or schedule a vaccine appointment by calling334-8810, he wrote in an email to The Sun.
There, theywould need to sign a consent form acknowledging that they are immunocompromised. A physician referral is preferred, he said, but notrequired.
"People should talk to their health care provider about their medical conditionand whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for them," Myers said."There should not be a cost, and I dont foresee special clinics being necessary."
Pharmacies at Publix, CVS and Walgreens also are offering the third shots.
The Moderna vaccine is available at all of Publix's in-store locations, according to its website, and the Pfizer vaccine is offered at locations in Brevard, Duval, Orange and Polk counties. CVS accepts walk-ins and appointments, while Walgreens is administering the third dose for walk-ins only, according to their online vaccination information webpages.
A few days after the third dose approval for the immunocompromised,the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a plan to offer booster shots to the publicbeginning the week of Sept.20, pending evaluation by the FDA and a review of evidence by theCDCs Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
"The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination," the media statement read. "And in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease."
If enacted, people would be eligible for the booster at eight months after receiving their second dose, according to the CDC.
Lauzardo said there is not agreement in the scientific community over the plan and that his priority is to get more first doses administered to the unvaccinated.
In Alachua County, almost 57% of the total population has been vaccinated, according to the COVID-19 data report released Aug. 20 by the Florida Department of Health.
"When youve got 40% of the population that [is]completely unvaccinated … where should you put your efforts?" the doctor asked. "The problem and the risk is not from vaccinated people. The hospitals are not filled with vaccinated people."
Lauzardo said he believes the right thing to do now to prevent more deathsis to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
"There is absolutely no justifiable reason for these vaccines to not be required to go to school, to go to work," he said. "There is no reason for these vaccines to not be required. That isthe fastestway for us to move forward, and that is the fastest way to put the pandemic behind us."
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