DHEC recommends COVID boosters for eligible South Carolinians following CDC clearance

Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 4:52 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 22, 2021 at 8:18 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Starting Friday, fully vaccinated Americans can receive a COVID booster shot of their choosing.

The change comes after the CDC signed off Thursday on mixing and matching boosters, allowing people to get a booster dose different from what they received for their primary vaccination series, as well as giving the green light to boosters of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Last month, the CDC approved the Pfizer booster’s use.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control sent guidance to the state’s vaccine providers Friday on the changes in availability.

DHEC Public Health Director Dr. Brannon Traxler is cautioning people that it may taking some time for providers to update their protocol for these boosters.

“While it is technically and officially allowed, the logistics may take a little bit longer today or maybe a couple of days, depending on the site, so they might want to call ahead before they just show up somewhere to see if they’re prepared and ready,” Traxler said Friday morning.

People who originally received the two-dose Pfizer vaccine are now eligible for a booster six months after their second dose if they are 65 and older or if they are at least 18 and have a medical condition that increases risk of developing severe illness if they are infected or are at a heighted risk of exposure because of their occupational or institutional setting.

People who receive a Pfizer booster will get a dosage the same size as the initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Those who originally received the Moderna vaccine, which is also a two-dose primary series, are now able to get any booster six months after their second dose as well, with the same qualifications as Pfizer’s: They must be 65 and older or be 18 and older and at high risk of infection or exposure because of health conditions or where they work or live.

The Moderna booster is half the dosage size as Moderna’s primary series doses.

Johnson & Johnson, which has a one-dose primary series, is different.

People who originally received that vaccine can get a booster starting two months after their first dose as long as they are at least 18 years old, and the J&J booster is the same size as the initial dose.

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health indicated all three boosters increase a person’s immune response, though the Pfizer and Moderna boosters might be more effective in certain situations than Johnson & Johnson’s.

Traxler said people wondering which booster they should get should be able to get help soon.

“I believe that the CDC is going to work on providing some more considerations and guidance about that specifically, about which subpopulations may want to look at using a certain booster, either a different one or the same one and so forth,” she said. “So I think for those people, if they are not certain and want to wait, I would wait for the next week or two.”

In August, the CDC recommended third vaccine doses for people who have moderately to severely weakened immune systems and received initial doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Research has shown these people likely did not build up the immune response to protect them from COVID that people with stronger immune systems did, so they needed a third dose to get to that baseline protection.

People who received those third doses do not need to get a booster at this point, Traxler said, but she added the country’s health experts will inform Americans when they do.

While DHEC is encouraging eligible South Carolinians to get a booster, public health leaders maintain that getting more people vaccinated in the first place is what will move the country closer to the end of the pandemic.

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