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What to know about recent developments regarding COVID-19 vaccines

The Beaufort County Health Department on Thursday issued a release clarifying the difference between the additional COVID-19 vaccine dose recommendation and the booster recommendation.

Though both refer to a third dose, there is a distinction.

On Aug. 13, 2021, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) made an interim recommendation for the use of an additional dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine beyond the initial two-dose mRNA vaccine series. This additional dose is for those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

This interim recommendation for the use of an additional dose came from the ACIP after studies indicated that some immunocompromised people have a reduced immune response following the primary COVID-19 vaccine series when compared to those who are not immunocompromised. The CDC recommends that individuals with the following receive this third dose:

·      Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.

·      Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system.

·      Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 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 your immune response.

The CDC also recommends talking to your healthcare provider about your medical condition, and whether getting an additional dose is appropriate for you.

BCHD will start offering this additional dose on Aug. 25.  Appointments can be made online through the Health Department website booking system or by calling Beaufort County’s COVID-19 call center at 252-940-6150.  Most doctor’s offices will also be able to administer this additional dose as well.

In contrast to the 3rd dose recommendation above, a booster is given when there is evidence that shows a decrease in the protection against a virus over time. Studies by both Pfizer and Moderna have found a reduction in protection does exist following the completion of their vaccine series and are currently seeking approval for booster shots. Johnson & Johnson continues to evaluate the effectiveness of their shot over time.

Booster shots will be subject to an independent evaluation by the FDA to determine its safety and effectiveness. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will then complete a thorough review of the FDA’s findings and make recommendations on the use of boosters for the public. While this process is expected to finish this fall, no date has been set yet. Beaufort County’s Health Department is underway with planning efforts to ensure that booster shots can be administered as soon as the evaluation process is completed, and booster vaccines are received.

BCHD encourages everyone to continue to monitor Beaufort County’s Health Department webpage (https://www.co.beaufort.nc.us/departments/human-services/public-health/) for updates.