OHA Prepares For COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters

HHS Secretary Azar Speaks At Vaccination Kickoff At GW University Hospital

Photo: Getty Images North America

Photo: Getty Images

Oregon is ready to make booster shots available to people who are eligible to receive one, if the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup approves a federal recommendation to make booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine available to seniors and people in high-risk categories.

While Oregon currently has an adequate supply of Pfizer vaccines, state health officials cautioned that provider capacity could mean that booster shots may not be available on-demand in some communities.

Health officials continued to emphasize that medical evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness and death. The recommended Pfizer booster maintains the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term effectiveness, especially for older adults.

Public health officials also urged all unvaccinated Oregonians to talk to their health provider about getting immunized against COVID-19. Dr. Tom Jeanne, Deputy State Epidemiologist said: “The Delta variant continues to spread, putting more people at risk, including younger people. A vaccination is the best way to keep yourself and the people you care about safe from COVID-19.”

Earlier today, a panel of medical and public health experts convened by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 65 and older, as well as residents of long-term care facilities and people 18 and older who have certain underlying conditions – all of whom had received their second dose of the vaccine at least 6 months ago.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup convenes later today to consider the federal recommendations.

People vaccinated with the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are not currently eligible to receive a booster, though federal health officials expect to consider a booster recommendation in coming weeks, based on more data. Dr. Melissa Sutton, Medical Director of Respiratory Viral Pathogens at OHA said, “Current evidence tells us that the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines continue to offer strong protection against the most serious COVID-19 outcomes.”

People who are immunocompromised, and were vaccinated at least one month ago, currently qualify for a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, based on previous recommendations approved by federal and Western States medical experts.

According to the CDC’s panel, people who are recommended to receive a Pfizer booster are:

  • People 65 or older who received their second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities who received their second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago.
  • People 50-64 who have medical conditions that put them at-risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and received their second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago.
  • People 18 to 49 years old who have underlying health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID-19, and who received their second dose of Pfizer vaccine at least 6 months ago, would also be eligible based on their individual benefits and risks. (State public health doctors emphasized that findings from current data show that vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization and death remains high in people under the age of 65.)

State health officials estimate the population of Oregonians who are potentially eligible for a Pfizer booster immediately could exceed 230,000 people, with more becoming eligible as they reach the 6-month threshold since they completed their vaccination series. Across Oregon, vaccination sites currently have approximately 460,000 Pfizer doses in stock.

Eligible Oregonians in these categories could seek booster shots through their health care provider or local pharmacy, once approved by the Western States Safety Review panel.

Eligible residents in long-term care facilities, including seniors, should receive their boosters through vaccination plans developed between their homes and pharmacies. State officials are also planning ways to reach home-bound seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations.

In some regions of the state, providers and local public health officials again may set up large mass vaccination sites. However, state officials urged eligible Oregonians to be patient as public health and health care providers administer vaccines and fight the most recent wave of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, brought on by the highly transmissible Delta variant.

OHA Director Patrick Allen said, “Our ability to deliver Pfizer boosters isn’t limited by the availability of doses, but by capacity of health care providers to administer them at the same time they’re treating hundreds of new cases each day, driven by the Delta variant which is running rampant largely among unvaccinated Oregonians. I’m grateful for the dedication and resilience of Oregon’s health care community. I ask Oregonians to recognize that you may not have a booster appointment waiting for you the day you become eligible, but you will get one. In the meantime, your vaccine continues to protect you from COVID-19, no matter what vaccination you’ve received.”

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