With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Utah, is it time for fully vaccinated people to receive booster shots?
Pfizer and its partner company in the production of one of three coronavirus vaccines approved for use in the United States, Bio-Tech, on Thursday announced a new study showing promising results from the administration of a third vaccine , six months after the first two, and plan to submit their findings to federal authorities for clearance.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration responded by a joint declaration, “Americans who have been fully immunized do not need a booster at this time,” but said the issue was under review and the recommendation may change.
“We are ready to receive booster doses if and when science shows they are needed,” the statement said. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their last dose of vaccine – two injections for Pfizer or Moderna and one for Johnson & Johnson.
Utah health experts also say not yet, although they recognize there is growing interest, especially among those who have received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, to provide greater protection. against the highly contagious delta variant of the virus first detected in India now dominant in Utah and the rest of the country.
“This one is touchy,” said Dr Michelle Hofmann, deputy director of the Utah Department of Health, calling for a question about the extra blows raised at a recent virtual press conference to encourage vaccinations “to the tip of where we can be Go. “
Some countries already allow the administration of a different type of vaccine as a second dose after a vaccine similar in composition to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. J&J shot is less effective against the original coronavirus, with around 60% effectiveness compared to 95% for Pfizer and Moderna.
All three vaccines largely prevent hospitalization and death in fully vaccinated people, but the decline in their performance compared to the delta variant is now a problem. Studies have shown that both doses of Pfizer – and possibly Moderna, which uses the same new technology – are needed, but there is little data on Johnson & Johnson.
It is official CDC policy that vaccines are not interchangeable, although the The National Institutes of Health announced in June that a clinical trial was underway To determine the safety and effectiveness of administering booster doses of various COVID-19 vaccines to fully vaccinated adults.
“We don’t currently recommend this in the United States,” Hofmann said, citing potential safety concerns. “We are starting to hear from people who are interested and wondering about this, but this is currently not a recommendation.”
Yet not everyone is ready to wait. Hofmann was responding to a question posted on Facebook by a woman who said she knew “several people who had the J&J vaccine who went and received a second dose of Moderna or Pfizer. Is it recommended, safe or necessary? “
There are several media reports of people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but then surreptitiously sought out Pfizer injections in hopes that the higher efficacy associated with the new type of vaccine will make them less likely to know a revolutionary case of COVID-19.
A few, including Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization at the University of Saskatchewan, are experts in the field. Rasmussen, an American working in Canada, tweeted at the end of June that she had received an injection of Pfizer “to supplement the J&J vaccine I received in April” and was feeling well.
“I think I did what it took to make sure I was as protected as possible from the delta variant and thus protect the others who only have one chance,” she said. in his widely-read Twitter feed, adding, “Sometimes public health requires making tough decisions without a full data set to back it up.
Shortly before the July 4th recess, the region’s largest healthcare provider, Intermountain Healthcare, told patients vaccinated in a blog post it’s too early to roll up their sleeves for another dose because, “So far the signs are good that we won’t need any reminders anytime soon.
The publication said federal agencies were assessing the risk of additional vaccines by looking at various factors, including whether breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated people increased, whether booster doses or the combination of different types of vaccines offered more protection, and if the variants were more difficult to fight. .
It remains to be seen how long it will take to make this decision, said Dr Tamara Sheffield, medical director of preventive medicine at Intermountain Healthcare. This could happen sooner rather than later once the effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the delta variant is known.
“At this point, we don’t have anything that tells us we should do this yet. But that could change quickly, ”Sheffield said. In the meantime, she offered some advice to Utahns who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine – less than 130,000 compared to nearly 1.5 million in the state who received Pfizer or Moderna.
“I tend to be a more careful person,” she said. “I would say to anyone who is wondering if they are fully protected to follow prudent collection behaviors. If you are indoors with a group of people who may not have been vaccinated, then people should mask themselves. “
Han Kim, professor of public health at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, said data on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are difficult to come by because relatively few people have received a single injection, adding that “it may not be. not be a bad idea to get a vaccine. booster.”
A federal government decision on such vaccines could move closer to fall, Kim said, when COVID-19 cases could rise even more as students, especially those under the age of 12 who are not eligible for the vaccine, return to classrooms and people spend more time indoors when temperatures drop.
Pfizer’s announcement of the booster injections raises questions, he said.
“There is a lot of discussion among epidemiologists and public health specialists that this is completely unnecessary,” Kim said, noting that the vaccine should remain “fairly effective” for at least a year and that injections do not need to be. started only last December and became widely available months later. .
“We live in a world where there is enormous injustice in terms of vaccine distribution and we will start prioritizing a third vaccine for Americans, in a country that is still struggling to reach 70% of the population. adult population with a pull? A lot of people say it’s way too premature, ”he said.
Gov. Spencer Cox said Utah has met that 70% goal, if vaccine doses administered by federal state agencies are counted. But many areas of the state, including Utah County and rural communities, have much lower vaccination rates and less than 45% of the overall population is fully vaccinated.
“We should be focusing on getting people, in fact, their first shot, let alone a third,” Kim said. He said that not only would administering a third dose be logistically difficult, but it was also seen by some as “Pfizer taking advantage of this situation to request a third dose”.