When Californians will get COVID-19 boosters

Eligibility currently limited to those inoculated with Pfizer vaccine

By Soumya Karlamangla

New York Times

There has been plenty of confusing guidance over the past 18 months as we have lived alongside the coronavirus, including shifting recommendations about face masks and the initial patchwork rollout of vaccines.

But particularly deserving of admission into the pantheon of mixed messages is the recent discussion around booster shots. Over the past several weeks, there has been tremendous back-and-forth about who most needs an extra dose of a coronavirus vaccine, when we should get one and whether it’s a good idea for anyone at all.

The debate has divided the scientific community, perhaps more than any other issue during the pandemic. After a flurry of conflicting recommendations late last week, here’s where things stand now:

A Pfizer-BioNTech booster has been approved for seniors as well as people at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing severe disease. People are eligible for a booster starting six months after their second Pfizer shot — and many began receiving them on Friday.

In California, more than 23 million people are fully vaccinated, and a little more than half received the Pfizer vaccine (though not all are allowed a booster). Anyone who is eligible can make an appointment on the state’s website.

People who got Moderna or Johnson & Johnson aren’t currently able to get a booster dose. Below are more details based on which vaccine you received and your risk levels:

If you got Moderna or Johnson & Johnson

You’re not yet eligible for another shot (unless you received Moderna and are immunocompromised — see below).

However, it’s possible that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could authorize a Moderna or Johnson & Johnson booster in the coming days or weeks. Some experts have supported mixing and matching vaccine doses, though nothing has been authorized yet.

If you’re immunocompromised

Americans who have received solid organ transplants and others with similarly compromised immune systems have been eligible since mid-August to receive a third dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.

In California, roughly 260,000 of these third doses have been administered so far, according to state data.

If you got Pfizer-BioNTech and are …

… 65 and older or live in a nursing home

You’re eligible for a booster shot if your last dose was more than six months ago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention broke down its booster recommendations into two groups — people who should get the shot and people who can, “based on their individual benefits and risks.” This older population falls into the first category, because the data about waning immunity is most compelling for seniors.

For people 65 and older, the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in preventing hospitalization dropped from 86% in the first five months to 73% in the next three, the CDC reported on Wednesday.

There was a 9 percentage point drop in the shots’ effectiveness for people 50 to 64 and no reduction among younger adults, the data shows.

between 18 and 64 and high risk for severe COVID-19 or a frontline worker

You’re eligible for a booster shot if your last dose was more than six months ago.

This group includes people with a broad range of conditions, including cancer, chronic kidney disease and obesity, as well as teachers, health care workers or people who have jobs that increase their exposure to COVID-19.

But not everyone in this category is at equal risk.

Federal officials recommend that people with underlying medical conditions who are 50 and older should get a booster shot, while they say that those between 18 and 49 can get a booster if they feel it’s right for them.

The guidance is stronger for the older population because there’s evidence the vaccine loses strength more quickly among these groups.

none of the above

You aren’t eligible for a booster yet. This means that, at the moment, there isn’t a lot of data showing that the benefits of a booster would outweigh the risks.

Of course, that’s subject to change.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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