JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The U.S. on Friday opened COVID-19 booster shots to all adults.
In the morning, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the shots. In the afternoon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers also supported the move. Then, the CDC had to agree before the new policy became official late Friday.
Under the rules, anyone 18 or older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For anyone who got the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the wait already was just two months. And people can mix-and-match boosters from any company.
Studies show the COVID-19 vaccines work, but over time, the body’s level of antibodies drops.
“What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to boost that antibody level so that we are protected just as we are after the initial vaccine series,” said Jacksonville epidemiologist Dr. Mobeen Rathore.
That’s the job of booster shots.
“The rule of thumb is it takes about four weeks. After two weeks, you should be having an increased antibody response,” Rathore said.
Millions of people have already received boosters. Medtown Pharmacy owner and pharmacist Chen Oeur says they have doses ready to go. He says demand has been trickling in slowly.
“Demand is slowly coming in, but I see there is an increase, you know, week after week,” Oeur said.
Laurel Guzman, who lives in Jacksonville, says she received the Pfizer vaccine about six months ago and will probably get a booster, too.
“Most likely,” Guzman said. “Because I already got the vaccine — why not?”
Leon Garrett, who lives in Jacksonville, says he is also looking to get a booster.
“I think it makes a lot of people feel comfortable to know it’s been approved by the FDA. “I think it just gives people that confidence,” Garrett said. “I think it just gives people that confidence.”
The boosters are just smaller doses of the original vaccines. Possible side effects are the same — the most common is a sore arm, but you could also have a low-grade fever.
Oeur hopes expanded approval will encourage more people to get boosters.
“Were super excited just about the possibility, getting more people vaccinated,” Oeur said.
He says Pfizer and Moderna boosters should be available to the expanded group the day after they’re approved.
“The inventory is available. There’s no shortage of supply of the vaccine except for the J&J (Johnson & Johnson), but in terms of getting the inventory out, we can get it next day,” Oeur said.
Experts say with cases now surging in some regions and holiday travel approaching, it’s especially important to make sure your immune system is as prepared as possible.
“It’s not only important to get the booster before the holidays, as you well know, there’s already seeing uptick in cases in Northeast, Midwest. In Europe, we are seeing that,” Rathore said.
Rathore recommends going with the same brand as your original shot but says mixing and matching is OK, too.
“Get whatever booster you can get,” he said.
Last month, several groups of people became eligible for Pfizer or Moderna boosters, six months after their second dose. They included people age 65 and up, as well as those age 18 and up who work or live in high-risk settings or have underlying health conditions that put them at risk. Anyone age 18 and older who got the J&J shot at least two months ago is also eligible.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.