COVID-19 booster shots are now available in the US, but eligibility remains a matter of confusion for many Americans.
President Joe Biden publicly received his third Pfizer shot yesterday, another milestone in the fight against COVID-19. “I got my booster — and encourage everyone who’s eligible to do so as well,” the president wrote on Instagram, under a picture of himself receiving the shot.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) also posted on Instagram that he got a booster shot. “Today, I followed the advice of experts and my doctors and received a booster vaccination for COVID-19,” his caption read.
According to the CDC website, individuals 65 years or older are now eligible for the Pfizer booster, as well as those 18 years or older who have underlying medical conditions or work in or live in high-risk environments. There’s just one caveat: those eligible must have received the Pfizer vaccine as their primary shot.
“Only certain populations initially vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can get a booster shot at this time,” the CDC website stated. Experts are studying the effects of using multiple vaccines, but mixing and matching has not been approved yet.
High-risk settings include schools, farms and grocery stores. According to the CDC, teachers, support staff and daycare workers are all eligible for the booster if it has been six months for the individual since their first round of Pfizer shots.
A USC Student Health email sent to all students and staff today announced that booster shots are now available at USC Pharmacies for those who are eligible.
Bobbie Gonzales, a third-grade teacher in Long Beach, said she was unaware that teachers are eligible for the booster shot. “I just thought it was for the elderly or cancer patients,” she said.
Gonzales received the Moderna vaccine for her first round of shots. She also did not know third shots were only available to people previously vaccinated with Pfizer.
Teaching during the pandemic has been exhausting, Gonzales said. “I have a constant weight on my shoulders about getting the children sick,” she said. “As unreasonable as I know it is, I will not take my mask off for a sip of water with the children in the room.”
Experts believe the booster shot will continue to protect vulnerable populations against COVID-19. “Data from a small clinical trial show that a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot increased the immune response in trial participants who finished their primary series six months earlier,” the CDC reported on its website.
Dr. Sarah Van Orman, USC chief health officer, said she is confident that those not currently eligible for the booster are protected by their first round of shots.
“I think the data is pretty strong, that we probably don’t need booster shots yet,” she said to Annenberg Media.
Van Orman said the booster shot works best for those currently eligible under the CDC guidelines.
People who initially received the Moderna vaccine may soon be eligible for a Moderna booster shot, the New York Times reports. Moderna applied for FDA authorization at the beginning of September. Johnson & Johnson shots may soon be available as well, but they have not applied for FDA authorization yet.