California turbo-charges push for COVID-19 booster injections | PA

LOS ANGELES – Amid growing concerns over a possible increase in the coronavirus in winter, health officials in California and other areas are stepping up the push for COVID-19 booster injections in hopes of delivering more adults the additional dose as soon as possible.

The move comes amid low initial demand for booster shots, which has raised fears that more people who received their first vaccines almost a year ago will see their immunity weakened further during the pivotal period of recalls. vacation. In California, only 34% of people aged 65 and over who were fully vaccinated were boosted, as were only 14% of adults who were fully vaccinated.

Federal guidelines say any adult can be recalled if they are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of where they work or live.

National and local health authorities are urging the public as well as pharmacies, medical centers and other vaccine distributors to take a liberal view on this matter – meaning all adults are eligible as long as two months have passed since they received a Johnson & Johnson injection, or at least six months have passed since they received a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

Traditionally, the “increased risk” criteria outlined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been applied to those who work in places such as hospitals, schools, grocery stores, or factories – or to those who work in places such as hospitals, schools, grocery stores, or factories. live in gathering places like prisons or homeless shelters.

But the wording of the recently published criteria is broad, and some health officials, including in California, are now increasingly pointing out that it can be interpreted in a much broader way.

Dr Tomás Aragón, head of public health and director of the California Department of Public Health, sent a letter on Tuesday asking vaccine suppliers to “allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure.” Do not refuse a patient who requests a callback.

Adults eligible for the recall may include those who “live in geographic areas that have been heavily affected by COVID,” those who “live in high transmission areas,” “who work with the public or live with someone who works with the public, ”or“ live or work with someone at high risk of severe impact from COVID, ”Aragón wrote.

There may also be “other risky conditions assessed by the individual,” he added.

The California Department of Public Health on Wednesday summed up its recall guidelines as follows: “In broad terms that anyone can understand, we urge Californians to get a recall if anyone in their home has a health problem or condition. ‘they work with other people. “

The list of qualifying medical conditions itself is long, including overweight, pregnancy, current or former smoker, or high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, depression, or a drug use disorder. alcohol or drugs.

Based on all of these reasons, “almost everyone is eligible,” said Dr. Sara Cody, health official and director of public health for Santa Clara County, northern California’s most populous county. . “We really encourage everyone to go out and get their booster shot. “

Officials have regularly beaten the drums for the boosters in recent weeks, saying it’s important for eligible people to take advantage of the extra protection ahead of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, which fueled the worst wave of COVID last year. -19 to date.

Governor Gavin Newsom this week called the potential winter COVID-19 outbreak “the greatest anxiety.”

“While we have been spared the worst this summer, the prospects of a difficult winter are upon us,” he said Wednesday at a press conference promoting the booster shots in Los Angeles. “And that is why we are doing everything in our power to prepare and protect ourselves.”

While California relies on an interpretation of the CDC’s recall guidelines to essentially open the doors, federal officials, for their part, are already weighing the advisability of formally expanding eligibility.

Just this week, Pfizer and BioNTech asked the United States Food and Drug Administration to allow recalls of their COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 years of age or older. The results of a new study found that a booster dose resulted in a 95% relative effectiveness of the vaccine compared to people who did not receive a booster.

The California messages mark a change from just a few weeks ago, when authorities generally placed more emphasis on urging the elderly and those with weakened immune systems to get the booster.

This was in part based on official CDC recommendations that – for people vaccinated with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna – the groups who should receive the booster shots include people aged 65 and over, adults aged 50 and over. more with certain underlying conditions and adults who live in long term care facilities. The CDC also recommended that all adult recipients of J&J be given a booster.

The CDC has also made the boosters available to other specified groups, but has not officially recommended that they take advantage of the extra hit. This included young adults with an underlying disease, as well as people between the ages of 18 and 64 who live or work in environments that put them at increased risk.

As the CDC guidelines note, however, this risk “can vary by settings and be affected by the amount of COVID-19 spreading in a community.”

In Colorado, for example, authorities have taken the position that, given the extent of coronavirus transmission statewide, all adults are eligible for a booster.

“Because COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the state, Colorado is a high-risk place to live and work. Anyone 18 or older who wants a booster and needs to have one should make a plan to get one, ”the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said on its website.

California’s message is similar. Without a reminder, health officials warn, those vaccinated will be at greater risk of infectious infections, which can lead to hospitalizations and death among the most vulnerable.

“If you think you will benefit from a recall, I encourage you to come out and do it,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, in a briefing Wednesday.

He added, “It’s not too late to get it this week. Get that extra protection for Thanksgiving gatherings you may attend. Of course, before the other winter holidays, it is important.

More than 3.7 million Californians have received a recall so far, according to the State Department of Public Health. By comparison, about 25 million people are said to be fully immunized statewide.

The group of boosted Californians includes Daniel Loyd, 60, who said he received his recall as soon as he could.

Outside a CVS in Agoura Hills on Thursday, Loyd said he was not only concerned about his own risk factors, he has diabetes, but also tries to protect those around him – including his wife, who suffers from asthma, and their neighbors retired. community where they live.

Greg Mead of Woodland Hills, meanwhile, said he would not get a callback. He said he was fully vaccinated with J&J and felt unwell for three days afterward.

“I’m done with the shooting,” he said.

It is not uncommon for people who receive a booster to have a mild fever, or perhaps chills or fatigue; it usually lasts 24 hours.

“But everything is going. And it’s much more important for people to just endure this day of side effects because they are protected for a long time, ”said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, Vaccine Manager for Santa Clara County.

Californians who have not been vaccinated are still about seven times more likely to contract a coronavirus infection than those who have been previously vaccinated. But Ghaly said the state is seeing more cases of the coronavirus among those who got vaccinated earlier.

“We are concerned about what this means for hospitalizations and the strain on our health care delivery system, but ultimately for your safety and protection,” he said. “So now is the best time to consider taking this photo. “

This is especially important, according to health officials, as California’s emergence of the latest Delta wave appears to have come to a halt. The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases has leveled off in recent weeks – and hospitalizations for COVID-19 statewide have been relatively stable since mid-October.

Nationwide, daily new cases of coronavirus are starting to increase – up 5% over the past week.

Studies have shown that all three COVID-19 vaccines have lost some of their protective power, and data from Israel indicates that booster shots reduce the risk of serious illness and death.

Recently, Dr.Anthony Fauci, the US government’s foremost infectious disease expert, cited a study published in the journal Lancet which found that, compared to people in Israel who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the people who received a third dose had a 93% reduced risk of COVID-related hospitalization, a 92% reduced risk of serious illness, and an 81% reduced risk of COVID-related death.

A report released by the CDC in September showed that the vaccine’s effectiveness against hospitalizations increased from 91% to 77% for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine four months after receiving the second dose. The data available for the J&J vaccine showed that the effectiveness of the vaccine against hospitalization more than 28 days after receiving the single dose was 68%.

But while boosters are an increasingly important part of the fight against the pandemic, health officials say getting more people vaccinated to start is even more critical.

Nearly 70% of Californians have already received at least one dose, and about 63% are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by The Times. However, those numbers remain well below what health officials believe are necessary to bring the pandemic to its knees.

“We are concerned about winter. We are concerned about the increase in the number of cases, the pressure placed on our hospitals by a number of other issues besides COVID, ”Ghaly said. “So do what you can today to get the vaccine. Protect yourself during the winter.

© 2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit to Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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