KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Food and Drug Administration authorized Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for all U.S. adults on Friday.
Multiple local health organizations in Kansas have been administering the booster shots already after Gov. Laura Kelly’s recommendation, but those in Missouri are waiting for final approval by an independent panel of vaccine experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“That means everyone over the age of 18 is now going to be eligible for a booster. You don't have to have any chronic disease etc. You just have to have an age, and I think that's a really good thing,” said Dr. Steven Stites with The University of Kansas Health System.
Stites wants as many Americans to get the booster to maintain high levels of immunity. Whether that's at a local health department, CVS or primary care doctor, he says access to vaccines is easier than ever.
“And we have vaccines throughout our clinics that you come into one of our providers and get vaccines just about at any clinic,” Stites said.
Local health officials recommend getting a booster shot after one has been fully vaccinated for six or more months. With the Johnson and Johnson booster, eligibility begins two months following the shot.
For people who have antibodies present in their system, health officials say a booster can still help.
“Especially these commercial antibody tests don't necessarily correlate with the amount of immunity that you have based on either past infection, or vaccination or a combination of both. And so really no need to check those commercial antibody tests,” said Dr. Dana Hawkinson, KU Health System infectious disease expert.
Dr. Sanmi Areola with the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment says in order to get the booster at their facility, patients need to book an appointment Monday through Friday.
“People that are taking the booster will come with their vaccination cards so we know the last vaccine that they got, also the type of vaccine that they got,” Areola said.
JCDHE is offering all three vaccines, and Areola advises patients consult their primary care physician about the type of booster shot to take.
“Over time, there are some suggestions, not entirely conclusive, that the immunity that we get wanes over time,” Areola said. “What this is doing is really boosting the level of antibodies in our system. And in theory, what that means is that it increases our chances of fighting the virus.”
He also says for certain people like cancer patients or those taking medication that suppresses their immune system, their rounds of vaccination may not have given them full protection.
The Kansas City Health Department says it will still administer Pfizer and Moderna boosters to anyone over 18 after the CDC approves the recommendation and the state of Missouri changes its existing orders. Since KCHD's vaccine supply comes through the state, the department must follow what is in the order under the state.
Public health experts expect COVID-19 infections to rise in the coming weeks as cold weather and the holidays force people indoors. They say boosters could help reduce the risk by preventing breakthrough cases among people who are already vaccinated.