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Health

Here's what to know about COVID booster shots in Idaho

A hand holds a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine between the thumb and index finger. Other vials with red caps can be seen beneath it in a bin.
AP Images

Booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine are now recommended for some adults.

Friday's recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the following categories of people are eligible for a booster shot if they have received their second Pfizer dose at least six months ago:

  • People ages 65 and older 
  • People ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions 
  • People ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions depending on their individual benefit and risk
  • Residents of long-term care facilities
  • People at an increased risk of exposure and transmission due to the type of work they do. This includes teachers and health care workers.

“We are expecting more recommendations down the road regarding the Johnson & Johnson and the Moderna (shots)," Dr. Laura McGeorge, the medical director for primary care at St. Luke’s Health System, said during a call with reporters late last week.
For now, people who received the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines are not eligible for booster shots.

As of mid-August, moderately to severely immunocompromised people have been eligible to get a third Moderna or Pfizer vaccine dose. That's still the case.

"It's not considered a booster dose, but a third dose to stimulate an immune response in people who didn't have an immune response, or not much of an immune response, after the first two doses," said Niki Forbing-Orr, the public information manager at the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The booster dose, on the other hand, is for people whose immune response may be waning or to ensure people's immunity lasts for a longer period of time.

Health officials stress the vaccines are still very effective against the delta variant, especially at preventing severe disease, hospitalization and death.

“There’s no emergency for people to run out and get this third dose," McGeorge said last week. "I know a lot of people are very excited to get the third dose.”

In Idaho, booster shots are available at pharmacies, clinics and other health care settings distributing the Pfizer vaccine.

Though the federal pharmacy partnership to deliver initial vaccine doses to long-term care facilities has ended, it's likely pharmacies will still be distributing the boosters to those settings.

"Every facility has a pharmacy that delivers the vast majority of medications needed by facility residents," Robert Vande Merwe, the director of the Idaho Health Care Association, wrote in an email. "We believe that the pharmacies will be able to deliver and administer the booster shots."

The Idaho Department of Correction said it is currently working on a survey among its staff to gauge interest in a COVID-19 booster shot clinic. A majority of staff and residents who got the vaccine through IDOC clinics received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, so they're not currently eligible, said public information officer Jeff Ray.

IDOC's health care providers will work with health districts to obtain boosters for residents who received the Pfizer vaccines and are eligible for a booster, Ray said.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio