SJBPH awaits authorization to administer booster vaccines to those 65 and older

Photo Credit: SJBPH

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted unanimously today to recommend the authorization of a booster dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 65 and older and those at high risk of severe COVID-19. San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is monitoring the situation and is now awaiting additional authorization from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) before it can begin administering booster vaccines. Until additional State and Federal review occurs next week, immunocompromised individuals are the only population currently eligible for a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine. 

“SJBPH recognizes that the FDA has taken the first step toward authorizing a booster dose to better protect older adults and vulnerable populations. SJBPH will administer booster doses when we receive full authorization from the CDC and State of Colorado, potentially late next week. We are monitoring the situation closely and are prepared, alongside our partners, to administer booster doses to eligible populations as soon as we are authorized. Fully vaccinated residents are still well protected, especially from hospitalization and death, but the science is showing that a booster dose will provide additional immunity. For people who have yet to receive a single dose of vaccine, the most important thing is that you get the lifesaving vaccine right away,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH Executive Director. 

The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread locally and nationally. Limiting the spread of the Delta variant in addition to evidence that immunity from vaccination wanes slowly over time were both cited by the FDA in support of booster doses. 

In addition to individuals 65 and older, the FDA panel unanimously supported authorization of a booster dose of Pfizer for health care workers or others at high risk of occupational COVID-19 exposure. The booster recommendation for frontline workers came via a ‘poll’ of the FDA panel. Clarifications on this guidance are expected next week. The CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet on September 22nd and 23rd to consider the FDA’s recommendation and decide if they will authorize the booster vaccines for the 65+ and at-risk population. The State of Colorado is also expected to provide official guidance for the administration of boosters in the coming days. 

Currently, only moderately to severely immunocompromised people ages 12 and older are eligible for a third dose of vaccine. For the immunocompromised, third doses should be administered at least four weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Vaccine recipients are advised to seek the same mRNA vaccine that they originally received. If the matching vaccine type is not available, immunocompromised individuals may receive the alternative mRNA vaccine. 

The CDC’s authorization for immunocompromised people only refers to the mRNA vaccines. There is insufficient data to determine if a mRNA third dose is beneficial for people who originally received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine. An additional dose has not been recommended yet for immunocompromised people who originally received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Moderately to severely immunocompromised includes individuals meeting one or more of the following conditions: 

  • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood. 
  • Received an organ transplant and are taking immune-suppressing medications. 
  • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system. 
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome). 
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection. 
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress the immune system. 

SJBPH recommends immunocompromised individuals seek a third dose through an enrolled vaccine provider or existing vaccine clinic of their choosing.  Immunocompromised individuals will be asked to self-attest for eligibility at the time of vaccination for the additional dose. If you are immunocompromised, consult with your primary care provider to discuss if an additional dose is recommended for you. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to all residents ages 12 and up. Youth ages 12 to 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. Minors must have a signed parental consent form which can be completed online when registering or at the clinic. Although advance registration is preferred, walk-ins are also welcome at upcoming clinics. The vaccine is free, and no ID is required. Clinics, providers, and information about the COVID-19 vaccine can be found on SJBPH’s website.  

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