Epidemiologist answers questions you may have after CDC expands COVID booster rollout, OKs mixing shots

Ninety-nine million more Americans are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, but there are still a few questions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ninety-nine million more Americans are now eligible for COVID-19 booster shots, but there are still a few questions.

One of the main questions is do you have to get the same vaccine that already received? News4Jax on Friday spoke with a local medical expert, who recommends that if you work amongst the public, you should consider a booster shot.

Fully-vaccinated Americans are strongly protected against severe illness from COVID-19, according to doctors, but waning immunity against infection is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending booster shots. The federal agency formally recommended booster shots for people age 65 and older, people age 18 and older who live in long-term care settings, people who have underlying health conditions, and people who work in high-risk settings.

Local epidemiologist Dr. Jonathon Kantor says that in his opinion, a high-risk work setting could be anywhere where employees come in contact with the public, including all the Americans who are considered essential workers.

″If you’re 18 to 49, if you are in a job that exposes you to COVID a great deal — which one could very loosely argue is essentially any job in America unless you work from home all the time — then it is something you can consider,” Kantor said. “The important thing to keep in mind though is that younger age group with the exposure, it doesn’t say everyone should get it, it’s saying that everybody is eligible to get it and should probably discuss it with their doctor or health care provider.”

The CDC says Americans can mix and match COVID-19 booster shots that are different from their original inoculation, but it’s suggested you stick with the same brand of vaccine booster if it’s available. Medical experts have not specified which combination works the best.

“They did not embrace mix-and-match like it was a long-lost member of the family that they were seeing for the first time after many months and giving it hugs and kisses, so they’re not that excited about mix-and-match, but they have allowed for mix-and-match,” Kanor said. I think that’s a nod to the realities on the ground in terms of availability.”

Kantor says it’s unknown if this will be the last booster shot because doctors don’t know precisely how long this protection will last. Here’s what Kantor had to say about whether or not “fully-vaccinated Americans” are considered those who only get the booster shot.

“For people over age 65 right now, probably to be considered fully vaccinated in the sense of as a doctor, as a son, as a community member, I would say you definitely want to get that booster,” Kantor said. “In terms of the legal aspects of it, let’s say international travel, for international travel, for the most part, you probably do not need a booster right now for most countries. You are, as boosters become more common, particularly in countries that are themselves requiring boosters — obviously the U.S., the U.K., Germany, Israel, places like that — you’re probably going to see increasing requirements for boosters to be considered fully vaccinated.”

It’s also recommended that you wait six months between your second dose of the vaccine and the booster shot because experts say getting the booster too soon can actually reduce the benefit.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.