OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) has begun offering booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to certain individuals following recommendations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices, and Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.
At least six months after completing the primary Pfizer vaccine series, the following individuals should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine:
- People 65 years of age and older,
- People 18 years of age and older living in a long-term care setting, and
- People 50 – 64 years of age with underlying medical conditions or those at increased risk of social inequities.
Additionally, the following individuals who completed a Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago may receive a Pfizer booster dose:
- People who are 18 – 49 years of age with underlying medical conditions, and
- People 18 – 64 years of age who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their occupational or institutional setting.
“COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death, even against the highly transmissible Delta variant,” said DOH Secretary Umair Shah. “As COVID-19 continues to evolve, booster doses will further protect vaccinated people who are at high-risk and those whose protection has decreased over time.”
Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, who is the lead clinical doctor for UW Medicine’s COVID-19 vaccination program said UW Medicine has been planning for these boosters for months.
“We will be ramping up staffing in our larger vaccination clinics, but we also will make sure that the vaccine is available throughout our clinics, so that you can get it in your own clinic here at UW Medicine,” she said.
While Pfizer is the first vaccine to gain approval for a booster series in the United States, Dhanireddy expects that recommendations for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters will be available in the near future. In the meantime, mixing and matching vaccine types is not recommended.
“There are studies ongoing about mix-and-match,” says Dhanireddy. “I think it would be hard to approve mixing and matching based on the lack of data that’s been published.”
Dangers of ivermectin
Some Americans are turning to a medication approved to treat parasitic infections and skin conditions as an answer against COVID-19, despite the lack of data supporting ivermectin’s use against the novel coronavirus. That’s why the FDA urges against using ivermectin beyond traditionally prescribed uses.
UW Medicine clinical pharmacist Rupali Jain says misinformation and desperation are to blame for the increasing demand for ivermectin.
“Unfortunately, I think we’re at a state where there’s a lot of uncertainty, and I think people are grasping for anything that they think may be helpful,” he said.
Jain explains that when the formulation of ivermectin intended for humans is taken at the correct dosage for appropriate conditions, it is generally safe. Danger is created when people take doses far too large or seek out the highly potent formulation intended for animals.
“[It] can be purchased at veterinary stores or grain stores, and unfortunately this is a highly concentrated formulation of ivermectin,” said Jain. “We’re concerned that patients could have an overdose and have these toxicities, but then they could also be exposed to all these inactive ingredients that have not been tested in humans.”
An inappropriate dosage of ivermectin can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and dizziness. More severe reactions are coma and death.
Health leaders agree that getting vaccinated is the safest, most effective way to protect against severe COVID-19 illness.
This health series is made possible by funding from the Washington State Department of Health, which has no editorial input or oversight of this content.