The FDA gave the green light for vaccine providers to offer booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to certain populations Oct. 20, joining the already-authorized Pfizer booster. People who received their second Pfizer or single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose at least six months ago and are over the age of 65 are now eligible for a booster, as are people with various high-risk conditions and those with high exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace or home. Adults who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meanwhile, are recommended to receive a booster shot two months after their initial dose.
People eligible for boosters are permitted to "mix-and-match" vaccine boosters, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, meaning, for instance, that a Johnson & Johnson shot recipient could receive a Pfizer booster.
"We are working ... to update our clinical practice guidelines and ensure that we're able to accommodate our community as they come in and seek that vaccine, [and] we're preparing for the pediatric vaccine in anticipation of a newly eligible population within our community," said Cassandra Deleon, chief administrative officer for disease prevention and health promotion at Austin Public Health, at an Oct. 22 news conference.
The FDA is anticipated to authorize Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 in the coming weeks. Deleon said APH was in touch with local vaccine providers, including pediatric offices, to ensure they are able to provide the Pfizer vaccines, which requires specific ultra-cold storage and preparation.
"If a provider is currently not a registered provider for COVID [vaccines], we encourage them to reach out to [the Texas Department of State Health Services] and get fully registered so that they can be a COVID-19 vaccine provider," she said. "In addition to that ... we're there to be a space for them to refer their patients and provide them other outlets to refer patients."
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations continue to decline in the Austin area with a seven-day moving average of 16.4 daily hospital admissions as of Oct. 21. However, Dr. Desmar, Walkes, the Austin-Travis County health authority, said APH officials are watching a new surge in cases in European countries and want to prevent a similar surge here. Booster shots, along with initial vaccinations for children and others who have not yet been immunized, could play an important role, she said.
“Boosters are incredibly important to keeping our community protected and hospitalizations low. Just as we have been urging masking, getting vaccinated and getting tested if you are sick, we are urging the public to stay current with their boosters,” Walkes said in a statement. “If we can stay on top of our vaccinations, we provide protections for our most vulnerable and make it that much harder for COVID to spread in our community.”