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COVID-19 booster shots for fully vaccinated people at high risk of becoming severely ill

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Utah – Transplant recipients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, and those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised are among the group of people authorized to get the extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“We know these groups of people don’t respond as vigorously to the vaccine and someone who isn’t immunocompromised,” said Intermountain Healthcare Infectious Diseases Physician Eddie Stenehjem. “The third dose for these folks is more likely to generate more protection, so it’s something we highly recommend.”

According to Stenehjem, the vaccine was designed to protect against the “ancestral” virus, or the original strain first seen in 2019. Like all vaccines, their effectiveness wanes over time. Now that the Delta variant has surged, and is so highly contagious, Stenehjem said it is especially important to get that extra dose for added protection.

“We don’t anticipate this virus ever going away. As long as we have high rates of transmission in our community across the globe, we will have generations of variants,” he said. “But we have to do all we can to protect ourselves and the people around us and that includes getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, minimizing contact, and social distancing. We know these core principles work.”

Stenehjem also said it’s important not to mix and match vaccines.

“If you got the Pfizer vaccine, you should get the Pfizer booster. If you got the Moderna vaccine, you need to get the Moderna booster,” he said.

Johnson & Johnson has not yet approved a booster vaccine, but studies are being conducted.

“We do know with immunocompromised people if we have a situation where the same vaccine isn’t available we can use the alternate vaccine,” said Amy Carter, an epidemiology nurse for the Weber-Morgan Health Department. “The recommendation for the booster among this group of people is to wait 28 days after receiving your second dose.”

Once approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people can receive the booster eight months after receiving their second dose.

“This may very well become a seasonal situation,” said Dr. Filip Roos, deputy director for MountainStar Healthcare. “Not all vaccines provide lifelong protection. That’s just a fact and boosters are fairly common. Now that we’re seeing the COVID-19 vaccine beginning to wane, we believe a booster is the best way for continued protection.”

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