City officials speak on difference between third shots, booster shots for individuals

Coronavirus

The Pfizer logo is seen at the Pfizer Inc. headquarters on December 9, 2020, in New York City. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Earlier this month, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released findings on individuals throughout the United States who would be eligible for a third ‘booster’ dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. 

However, a group of individuals have been eligible for a third dose of their respective COVID-19 vaccination dose based on their immunocompromised status. 

According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the city of Amarillo’s public health department began to offer this third COVID-19 vaccination dose to eligible individuals in mid-August through the city’s walk-in vaccination clinic. 

Todd Bell, the city of Amarillo’s public health authority, stressed these third doses are different from the booster doses that a certain population who received the Pfizer vaccine can receive. 

“I think the first thing that people need to remember, or bear in mind, is that we have boosters which are third doses for folks who had initial good response to the vaccine, and then subsequently over time have waning of that immune response,” Bell said. “Then, we have third doses that are actually for folks who didn’t respond well to the vaccine to begin with.” 

Bell said the CDC released data regarding these third doses for immunocompromised individuals, which states these third doses would benefit those who have cancer, those receiving chemotherapy, those who have an illness that requires taking immunosuppressants as well as those who have a primary immunodeficiency. The individuals who fall under those categories may not have responded well to the initial two series of the Pfizer or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Several months ago, we started doing a third dose for those who are immunocompromised. Now that’s a slice of the population that maybe accounts for up to 3% of the population,” Bell said. “We don’t actually call those technically boosters. That is actually the new standard series for folks that are immunocompromised. So if someone who’s immunocompromised went out to get their vaccine today, for the first time, they would get two doses and then, they get a third dose.” 

According to data from the Texas Department of State Health Services, 437,377 individuals throughout the state have been given these third doses as of Tuesday (Sept. 28). Officials with the Texas DSHS did not have specific data from the number of individuals who have received the doses in Potter and Randall counties, stating that they “don’t see the utility of breaking it out by county because not everyone needs or is eligible for an additional dose.” 

“People who have gotten two doses are fully vaccinated, and we are most concerned with everyone getting fully vaccinated,” Lara Anton, the senior press officer for the Texas DSHS, told MyHighPlains.com in an email. 

According to previous reports from MyHighPlains.com, the following individuals are eligible for booster shots if they received the full two series dose of the Pfizer vaccine: 

  • people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings can receive a booster shot at least 6 months after their initial series; 
  • people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions can receive a booster shot at least 6 months after their initial series;

Bell said individuals younger than the age of 50 are also eligible if they received the two dose series of the Pfizer vaccine and if they meet certain criteria. 

“That includes basically all adults who have a chronic health condition. So, maybe a 30-year-old who has diabetes, they could consider getting a booster if they had their initial Pfizer vaccine (series) more than six months ago,” he said. “It could also include, as a separate group, folks who have a higher risk of occupational exposure. That includes folks like healthcare workers and teachers, because both of those groups are working with unvaccinated individuals and they’re going to be potentially exposed to COVID more frequently than the general population world.” 

Bell said he expects additional information about booster shots for the Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be released in the near future. Even with the similarities of the Moderna to the Pfizer vaccine, both of which are mRNA vaccines, some data has suggested that the Moderna benefit may last longer than the Pfizer vaccine. 

“There doesn’t seem to be as much of a pressing need to potentially vaccinate those folks who had Moderna as what we see for those folks who had had Pfizer. There may not be as much of a need for the booster just yet. Again, we just really don’t have the data to be able to support doing that just yet,” Bell said. “For those folks that got the Moderna, I would say congratulations. Your vaccine seems to, so far, still be very highly effective, not only in preventing severe illness and ending up in the hospital, just like the Pfizer is continuing to do, but also protection even against that milder disease that seemed to be what is waned with the Pfizer vaccine.” 

However, Bell continues to stress that the priority continues to be to vaccinate those individuals who have not received their first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“I think that regardless of what vaccine people got, they’re going to be much better protected than if they were not vaccinated,” Bell said. “You know, I’ve heard somebody say, and I don’t remember who it was now, that we’re not going to booster our way out of the pandemic. We may very well, and hopefully, vaccinate our way out of the pandemic.”

Officials with the city of Amarillo’s public health department stated that booster shots, as well as the third doses, are being distributed through the city’s vaccination clinic. The public health department continues to offer vaccinations through its location at 850 Martin Rd. and through various mobile vaccination clinics.

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