PORTLAND, Oregon — Medical experts in Oregon and Washington are weighing on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) plan to start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to the general population.
If approved, the plan could start as soon as Sept. 20, the CDC announced Wednesday.
“The thought is if you give us a booster dose, that really augments your immune system so that you have that enhanced protection,” said Dr. Katie Sharff, an infectious disease physician at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas.
Sharff said with the initial vaccine doses, people are very well protected when it comes to the risk of severe COVID illness, hospitalization and death. But data show at eight months, that protection starts to wane.
So if you got your second dose on Aug. 18, then eight months later — April 18, 2022, it would be time to get a booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Experts recommend only getting the same brand you got initially. But if you can only get a booster dose with the other brand, you can.
There is no booster recommended yet for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but that could change in the future, depending on the data.
As for getting the flu shot, for example, Dr. Steven Krager with Clark County Public Health said the guidance for people to wait two weeks between COVID and other vaccinations has been dropped.
“So if it's going to be convenient for you to get your booster COVID-19 and flu shot at the same time, that might work really well for you and there's nothing wrong with that,” said Krager.
Health care workers were some of the first to be vaccinated early on, so they would be among those first up for booster shots in just a few weeks. Right now, many are of them are working overtime in overburdened hospitals as the delta variant surges.
“Absolutely I know I've had several of my colleagues ask about their booster doses, and they are eager to get them when they become available,” said Sharff.
Both doctors said as important as booster shots are, giving the first shots to those who are unvaccinated will still be key.
“Critically, from a public health standpoint protecting our hospital capacity, getting unvaccinated people is more important right now,” said Krager.
“The problem we have right now is that not all of the us that is eligible is getting vaccinated, and we are never going to get out of this until that group of individuals goes and gets their vaccine,” added Sharff.