IDHW clarifies policies on COVID-19 ‘booster’ shots

Idaho Department of Health and Welfare August 24, 2021 COVID-19 media briefing

by Logan Finney, Idaho Reports

Following recent announcements from the federal government about possible COVID-19 vaccine “booster” doses, state health officials clarified who is currently eligible for a third shot. 

In a media briefing Tuesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said that third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are currently intended only for moderately to severely immunocompromised people

“Those are not considered booster doses, they’re actually considered a three-dose series in those people,” Hahn said. “So that’s an augmented series.” 

The CDC recommends that immunocompromised people receive their additional dose at least four weeks after the second dose. There are currently no requirements for proof of immune status to receive a third dose. 

Immunization Program manager Sarah Leeds said that 2,517 people had received a third dose as of Monday, August 23. 

Physician Richard Radnovich administers a third vaccine dose during an event at the Idaho Botanical Garden.
(Photo by Andy Lawless)

“This additional dose intended to improve immunocompromised people’s response to their initial vaccine series is not the same as a booster dose, given to people when the immune response to a primary vaccine series is likely to have waned over time,” according to the CDC website

Now that the Pfizer vaccine is fully licensed, Hahn said, the CDC will meet Monday, August 30, to review safety and efficacy data and to reaffirm its recommendations. She said that discussion will likely include booster doses, but an official vote on the topic is not expected until September. 

“The White House announced recently that there is a plan to make recommendations for booster doses of the vaccine for people who’ve finished the two-dose series,” Hahn said. “In that population, the term ‘booster’ will be used.” 

Booster shots for the general public are expected to become available later this fall — subject to decisions by the FDA and CDC — and will likely be recommended eight months after the second dose. 

Hahn said some members of the public have been confused by the coinciding announcements and are under the impression they should get a booster shot now, which is not the case. 

“Very difficult messaging, because of course we’re happy to see things moving forward,” Hahn said, “but it’s a bit of a confusing time with all of the recommendations being made.” 

There are currently no recommendations for an additional Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose.

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