VDH preparing for potential COVID-19 booster eligibility expansion

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 1:53 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2021 at 5:38 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - By Thanksgiving, the state’s vaccine coordinator says a half-million Virginians could be eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster, up from the 2.9 now million already eligible.

“When the time comes for universal recommendation, we’ll have the infrastructure in place, and thankfully over the past year, we’ve really built out the distribution pathway,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia Vaccine Coordinator.

Last week, Pfizer submitted new data to the FDA about expanding booster eligibility. Right now, you can only get a Pfizer COVID-19 booster if you are: 65 and older, 18 and older with an underlying medical condition, or work in a high-risk setting.

Dr. Avula is hopeful that approval comes by Thanksgiving to protect those with waning immunity because they got their vaccine months ago.

“What the data is increasingly showing is that the further you get away from that initial vaccination, the more your immunity wanes, and so the booster is really an opportunity to keep our protection strong,” said Dr. Avula.

The vaccine coordinator points to a new study out of Israel that looked at five million vaccinated people. The findings indicate people doubled their risk of a breakthrough COVID-19 infection after six months. Of the more than five million vaccinated in Virginia, the breakthrough case rate stands at 1%.

Avula said the state is in an excellent position for the next chapter in the vaccine rollout between pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and vaccine clinics.

“Because we anticipated the overlapping of booster doses of 5-11-year-olds and built the additional statewide infrastructure, having these larger-scale community vaccination centers, I think we will be in good shape,” said Dr. Avula.

Dr. Avula says they have 10 large vaccine centers up and running across the state now to help. He also adds, vaccine supply remains strong, and federal officials promise that will continue.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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