What to know about COVID-19 booster shots in Charlotte

What to know about COVID-19 booster shots in Charlotte
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Editor’s note: This story was updated on Thursday, Oct. 21 to include information about Pfizer boosters.

Charlotte health care providers are administering booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines to some patients in the wake of federal recommendations.

What’s happening: The CDC has approved booster shots for frontline workers, those 65 and older and people with underlying medical conditions who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration previously recommended third doses of the vaccines for some immunocompromised people.

All recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible for a second shot two months after their initial one.

Here are answers to some common questions about the jabs.

Who is eligible now?

As of Thursday, October 21 the following groups of people can receive booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, per a press release from Mecklenburg County.

  • Those 65 and older and long-term care residents.
  • People 18 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions.
  • Those 18+ who work and live in high-risk environments.

Additionally, boosters can only be administered at least six months after your most recent shot.

Underlying medical conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes, down syndrome, heart conditions, HIV, dementia, sickle cell disease, obesity and pregnancy.

Certain immunocompromised people previously became eligible to receive third doses of both mRNA vaccines. That’s because people whose immune systems are weakened may not respond to a vaccine in the same way as those with normal immune systems.

That could include:

  • Patients who have received organ transplants
  • People on medication that suppresses the immune system
  • Those with advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Patients undergoing cancer treatment

If you’re unsure whether you should receive a third dose or booster, speak with your physician.

What they’re saying: David Priest, Senior Vice President and Chief Safety, Quality and Epidemiology Officer at Novant, said in a recent press briefing that it’s better to err on the side of caution.

We have adequate vaccine supply in this country,” he said. “We have vaccine going to waste frankly around the country. I think if someone is on the edge or in one of those categories or soon to be in one, then I think we ought to give them the third dose.” 

When will everyone be eligible?

The Biden administration had previously pushed for the general public to receive a booster of the mRNA vaccines in September.

But the CDC only endorsed the boosters for Moderna and Pfizer shots for certain groups. It’s unclear when or whether those recommendations will be broadened to the general public in the future.

Do I need insurance?

No. You may be asked to show an insurance card, but you should not be billed for your vaccine.

Am I still protected against COVID-19?

The vaccines are still highly effective against hospitalization and death. Priest said in the briefing that 91% of Novant’s COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. Those who were vaccinated were older on average, typically had chronic medical issues and were often vaccinated earlier in the pandemic.

“I think right now the unvaccinated population in the United States is kind of like dry kindling in the woods,” he said. “And it’s going to burn up quickly.”

According to Mecklenburg County Public Health data from October 13, the county has received and confirmed 6,989 break-through cases from the start of 2021 until now. That’s roughly 1.1% of fully vaccinated residents.

Why do we need boosters?

While the vaccines provide a strong layer of protection against COVID-19, the effectiveness may wane over time.

“What we don’t know is across the board in all populations, what happens to that benefit over time?” Dr. Lewis McCurdy, Specialty Director of Infectious Diseases at Atrium Health said in a recent press briefing. “Being as protected as we can as a community against COVID-19 is important.”

Should I get the same vaccine?

The FDA authorized mixing and matching vaccines on Oct. 20, meaning your booster doesn’t need to be the same brand as your initial shot. But it did not recommend one approach over another.

For the latest information on COVID-19 testing, booster shots and FAQs, head to our Coronavirus homepage.

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