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DHEC advises people to wait to get Pfizer booster until they are eligible

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Tens of millions of Americans who received the Pfizer COVID vaccine are now eligible for a booster shot, six months after their second dose.

The CDC recommends the additional shot for people 65 and older, those who live at long-term care facilities, people as young as 18 with underlying health conditions, and those “at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of an occupational or institutional setting.”

The recommendation followed much debate, intensifying in the last week, over who should qualify for this dose. It was capped off with the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, taking the unusual step late Thursday night to overrule recommendations from the agency’s advisors and instead make more Americans eligible immediately by including the final group, those whose jobs put them at increased risk, for recommendation.

“I would say if they’re in an occupation where they’re interacting with the public on even a semi-regular basis, then they would be considered to be in one of those occupational settings, considering what high levels of transmission we have statewide right now,” Dr. Brannon Traxler, the public health director for the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, said.

As opposed to earlier in the vaccine rollout, when doses were in high demand but limited quantities, shots are accessible and easy to get now, and people may not have to show proof that they now qualify for a booster to receive it.

Traxler said while getting a booster early likely will not harm people, they still should wait until they are eligible.

“But it may not be the best timing in terms of when you would have the best response to it, so it might not do as much as it could do for you,” she said. “And so they have really looked at the data. The groups that they’re recommending it, for now, are the ones who will based on science and data, benefit the most right now from it.”

Traxler said if people have questions about whether they are eligible for and should get a booster at this point, they should talk with their doctor or vaccine provider.

More than 60,000 third doses of the COVID vaccine have already been given in South Carolina, according to DHEC’s vaccination dashboard, though not all are boosters, as people with moderately to severely weakened immune systems have been eligible to receive a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since last month.

Scientists have said people should receive a booster from the same vaccine manufacturer they received for their initial doses.

Federal regulators have not yet approved boosters of the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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