Second COVID-19 booster rollout begins

By: 
Maya Shimizu Harris with the Casper Star-Tribune, from the Wyoming News Exchange

CASPER — As COVID-19 cases continue to plummet in Wyoming, the administration of second booster doses here promises to be easier than previous vaccine rollouts. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized on Tuesday second booster doses for individuals 50 years and older and for certain immunocompromised individuals. 

The FDA only approved the mRNA Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for these second booster doses. Data suggests that these boosters are more effective at preventing severe illness in those at high risk compared with the Janssen booster shot.

All three vaccines are authorized for the first booster. 

Evidence suggests that a second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is safe and improves protection from severe illness, according to the FDA. 

Individuals must wait at least four months after their first booster dose before getting their second one. Some people under 50 could qualify for a second booster if they are at least 12 years old and immunocompromised. 

The second booster is exactly the same as the first, according to Wyoming State Epidemiologist Alexia Harrist. 

Wyoming residents can get a second booster at any location where first boosters are already administered. 

Individuals who are immunocompromised have to check with their health care provider to see if they qualify for the second booster. Anyone over the age of 50 can get the second booster, although Harrist said she still recommends consulting with a medical professional before getting the second dose. 

The health department doesn’t yet have data on the number of individuals who have gotten a second booster, Harrist said. 

The authorization comes amid falling COVID cases in Wyoming. There were 55 confirmed active cases in Wyoming as of the health department’s latest update on Tuesday. That’s down by 206 cases from about a month ago. 

The omicron subvariant BA.2 is currently responsible for about 55% of cases in the U.S., according to the CDC. In the region including Wyoming and surrounding states, about 37% of cases are caused by the subvariant. That percentage was around 21% in an update earlier this week. 

But numbers overall in Wyoming are still declining even though the subvariant is responsible for a greater percentage of cases. 

Harrist said she recommends that everyone who is eligible get at least the first booster shot. 

“These vaccines have really shown to be quite effective against severe illness and death,” she said. “Data says the same about the vaccine against (the omicron subvariant) BA.2.” 

Those with booster shots were 21 times less likely to die from COVID during the last surge compared to unvaccinated individuals, according to the CDC. 

According to the health department’s latest update on Thursday, 112,324 Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster shots combined have been administered in the state so far. By comparison, just 1,554 Janssen booster shots have been administered in the state. 

The authorization of second booster doses may point toward the transition to routine vaccination against COVID. 

Immunity from COVID vaccines generally wanes after several months, according to the CDC. While some say this is reason for regular boosting, experts disagree on whether frequent boosters are really helpful in counteracting declining immunity, according to Kaiser Health News. 

Some are also concerned about the potential financial incentives pharma companies have in pushing regular boosting. 

 

This story was published on April 1, 2022.

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