Virginia prepares for coronavirus booster shot recommendation

COVID-19 Vaccine

VIRGINIA BEACH. Va. (WAVY) — U.S. health officials this week are likely to lay out a plan for booster shots as most patients hospitalized with COVID-19 are infected with the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

Third COVID-19 vaccination shots were recommended last week for individuals with a moderately or severely compromised immune system. The new recommendation includes immunocompromised people who have already received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that U.S. experts are expected to also recommend vaccine boosters for all Americans, which would be given about eight months after they received their second dose.

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 31, 2021 file photo, Cole Smith receives a Moderna variant vaccine shot from clinical research nurse Tigisty Girmay at Emory University’s Hope Clinic in Decatur, Ga. As of June 2021, scientists have found clues that the world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines offer lasting protection that could diminish the need for frequent booster shots, but they caution that more research is needed and that virus mutations are still a wild card. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

The makers of the so-called one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still in second dose clinical trials but J&J is expected to follow the lead of Moderna and Pfizer in calling for another dose. On the streets of Hampton Roads Tuesday, many were unaware experts are calling for a booster.

“I went ahead and got the vaccine but for other people, it’s their human right to not get a vaccine and I truly believe that’s the way it should work,” said Creagan Berry during a morning stroll through Virginia Beach’s Town Center.

State health officials are now dusting off the vaccination rollout plan used in January.

“It [the next phase] we will follow the same priorities much as we did the last time. [Including] those who are at higher risk, health care workers as the group that we started with,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, acting director of the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Health Departments.

The Virginia Department of Health said Tuesday it was monitoring the discussion on the federal level about possible booster shots for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

If boosters are recommended by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the Virginia Department of Health will proceed with the process to administer those third shots.

The distribution format could be tweaked as vaccine supplies, communication, and vaccination tracking software have improved.

For the fully vaccinated, studies show, like many vaccines, a person’s protection from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines wanes over a period of time.

(WAVY photo/Regina Mobley)

“It’s not an on-off switch. It’s not that you are protected today and then eight months later, the immunity goes away. It’s a slow and gradual decrease and at some point, scientists say, it’s a good idea to get another shot to raise one’s immunity once again,” said Jaberi.

The White House’s possible recommendation is dependent upon booster approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The vaccinations remain under Emergency Use Authorization.

The World Health Organization is calling for a delay in booster shots in higher-end countries until after millions in third world countries get their first vaccination.

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