JoCo on the Go Podcast: Pfizer booster approved for limited groups

On JoCo on the Go, episode #107, federal public health officials approve booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for certain groups of individuals, based on factors such as age, medical conditions and occupational risks of contracting COVID-19. Hear from Johnson County Department of Health and Environment experts who address the approval process for boosters, the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, and the importance of protecting yourself from COVID-19 and the flu. Also, hear how to get these importance vaccines.

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Time Subject
00:23 Introduction
00:52 Who has been approved to receive a booster?
01:48 The difference between a booster and a third dose
05:33 The approval process for these vaccines
08:47 Why it's important to get a third dose of the same vaccine
10:13 Third doses and the upcoming holiday season
10:13 Getting your third dose and a flu vaccine at the same time


Theresa Freed 00:00

Federal public health officials authorized boosters for a limited group on this episode find out if you qualify for additional COVID-19 protection and how and when to get it.

Announcer 00:10

Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County. Here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.

Theresa Freed 00:23

Thanks for joining us forJoCo on the Go, I'm your host Theresa Freed, aJohnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced approval of booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine. But not everyone should be lining up just yet. For more on that we have with us Johnson County Department of Health and Environment Deputy Director Charlie hunt and Stacy province Health Services Division Director with JCDHE thank you both for being here.

Stacie Province 00:50

Thanks for having us.

Theresa Freed 00:52

Well, first off, let's just talk a little bit about what exactly was approved. So who can get the booster at this point?

Charlie Hunt 00:57

Sure. Well, at this point, the recommendations are that anyone aged 65 years and older, those in residence at long term care or those between the ages of 50 and 64. If they have underlying medical conditions that put them at risk for severe COVID-19. That's a group that is recommended, they really should get the booster dose. And in addition to that, people who are 18 to 49 years of age, or if they have an occupation that puts them at risk for infection or complications from COVID-19. The recommendations are they really could consider it as well. So it's really kind of to two tiers to that the strongest recommendations being those 65 years of age and older, those long term care and those 50 to 64 if they have underlying conditions.

Theresa Freed 01:48

Okay, and just to be clear, this is not the same thing, as is the approval of that third dose for those who are immunocompromised. So can you talk about the difference?

Charlie Hunt 01:58

Sure. So that group that you're talking about was a much narrower set of people with severe immune compromising conditions. It's also important to note that for that group, the recommendations were for either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine, depending on which vaccine they got for their first two doses. And the timeframe was different for them. It was 28 days after their second dose. So for the current recommendations for the booster dose, it's only for the Pfizer vaccine, the timeframe is six months after the second dose, and it's for a much broader range of people that are eligible now.

Theresa Freed 02:34

Okay, and I don't know, Stacy, if you if you know, this one, but so the the booster shot, is that the exact same dosing amount, or is it a different amount?

Stacie Province 02:45

Yes, Theresa, it is the same dose. And it's going to be very similar to the first two doses in the primary series. So people can expect it very much what they experienced with the first two vaccines. And most common side effects, like with any vaccine are really just a little bit of fatigue and some soreness at the injection site. So it's going to be very similar to what they experienced the first two times.

Theresa Freed 03:13

Okay, and so that's the similarity. Now, what's different this time, we were instructing people to come back to say, for example, our health clinic to get their their second dose of their vaccine, but now, the the vaccine is widely available. So for that booster dose, where should they go?

Stacie Province 03:30

Right and just like you said, when the the vaccine was first released, we were one of the first clinics in the area to receive that broadly. And now it is much more widely available. So you can really go anywhere to your primary care provider, if they're offering that vaccine, your local pharmacy, a lot of the grocery store chains, offer those as well. So it's really whatever is convenient to you now. It's it's pretty much in in every store in the metro. I know I was at Walmart this weekend, and I saw their sign and CVS and Hy-Vee, of course, amongst many others. So really, wherever is convenient for you to get it. We recommend you do that.

Theresa Freed 04:13

So another another difference here. Can you talk a little bit about this vaccine, the booster dose wasn't approved for all ages. So if you have if you got Pfizer and you're if you're younger, you can't necessarily get that right. It's not approved for all like the 13 to 18 year olds or 12 to 18 year olds, right?

Stacie Province 04:36

That's correct. All of the recommendations. As Charlie had stated, there are some people that should get that booster dose, there are some people that may be eligible for the booster dose, but all of those age groups are over age 18. So just to kind of recap, the people that should get those back at the booster doses are those that are 65 or older. Are those residing in long term care facilities and those can be 18-plus, if they're residing in that type of facility, they are at a higher risk. It's also going to be those individuals that are 50 to 64, with underlying medical conditions. And then those that may get the vaccine are those that are 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions, or those that are 18 to 64 with certain occupational exposures that put them at a higher risk for getting COVID-19.

Theresa Freed 05:33

Okay, and I know there was a lot of confusion, it seemed like, just about the process of getting the vaccines approved for the booster here. So we heard from the FDA then we heard from the CDC and then the CDC director. So can you talk a little bit about what are those steps that have to happen before people can actually get the shot.

Charlie Hunt 05:55

But I think the probably the best way to to look at this is that there really are kind of three major steps. The first step is that the manufacturers of the vaccine make an application to the FDA, to in this case, either to amend the emergency use authorization or to amend the license that their that their vaccine is currently approved with. The FDA then considers that they have an advisory committee that looks at this and makes a recommendation to the FDA after reviewing everything that the manufacturers have submitted as well as additional things they're essentially looking for to two major things. One is is it safe and effective. And then based on the FDA will then make their regulatory decision to amend the emergency use authorization, or to amend the license. At that point, it goes over to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is a group that advises the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And they they use a similar process except they really, their job is to determine what the recommendation should be. So who should get the vaccine once it's been authorized by or approved by the FDA. And so they make the recommendations. And then the Finally, the decision is made by the CDC in terms of what those final recommendations are going to be. So we had a little bit of a roller coaster over the last couple of weeks, with all these different groups making different decisions. But ultimately, what we ended up with was the final recommendations. And that's what we're now implementing, with the groups that we that we indicated earlier.

Theresa Freed 07:27

So this is probably going to happen several times over I would anticipate that we're going to have you know, similar applications from Johnson and Johnson and from Moderna as well and they will not necessarily do the exact same thing they did with Pfizer. So can you talk a little bit about why these approvals are coming in at different times?

Charlie Hunt 07:46

Sure. Well, it's important to remember, that they go all the way back to you know, the development of these vaccines, and you know, some companies got started a little sooner, and they were able to just work more quickly to get their vaccine developed. And then, you know, all the clinical trials that had to take place and so they were just they were really just ahead of the others. And so that that's a big part of it is is going back to that whole cycle with with development and the research. And then at even with the regulatory process, all these things were at different time frames. And as we know the different vaccines are also authorized for different or recommended for different age groups. For example, for some, it's, you know, different age groups and others. And so it's very possible that for the booster doses, we might also see recommendations or approvals differ by vaccine and so we'll have to just see how this process plays out.

Theresa Freed 08:47

Okay, and so I'm sure some people are wondering, I want full coverage. I don't want to have any gaps or anything like that, but maybe I got Moderna and it's not approved yet. So why is it important that you follow the exact same vaccine throughout so if I got Pfizer I get Pfizer again.

Charlie Hunt 09:05

Well, again, that's what the recommendations are because it's it's the review of all the research and all the data was done for the Pfizer vaccine for this current authorization and recommendation. So the other vaccine manufacturers are in the process of looking at booster doses as well. And and we'll submit those to the FDA for authorization or approval. And so once they go through that same process, we we might very well see approvals and recommendations for booster doses for those vaccines. So unfortunately, that means we just have to sit tight for a while but I also think it's important to remember that all three vaccines are very effective and very safe and still offer a good deal of protection against severe disease and hospitalization. The booster dose is just boosting that effectiveness, just a little bit more for for people that, again, those 65 years of age and older in particular, and those with chronic underlying conditions, the immunity has a tendency to wane over time. But still, they have a high degree of protection.

Theresa Freed 10:13

And of course, we're coming up on the holiday season pretty rapidly. And so I'm sure there are people have some concerns if they are not yet able to get that booster dose is the original first and second doses or just first dose for Johnson and Johnson. All right, how long? Is that protection going to last for them? Are they going to be safe through the holidays, for example, getting getting together?

Charlie Hunt 10:34

Well, that's that's a really difficult question to answer, you know, again, that all three vaccines are very safe and very effective. But as we know that, particularly with the Delta variant that has been circulating for the last few months or so it's highly contagious. And I think that all the the recommendations that we've been talking about in terms of avoiding getting large groups of people together, particularly indoors, I think that's still gonna hold, unfortunately, and people really need to be careful about that. And they don't want to, they don't want to get together and put their their loved ones, those the older family members and those who might have chronic conditions, you get a lot of people together from different households, that does create a high risk situation. So you know, we ask people to really think about that, and what their own personal risks might be gathering outdoors, the weather is beautiful right now, still, and you're gathering outdoors is still safer than gathering indoors and, you know, wearing masks. If you are indoors, I think those are all common sense things that people could do to protect themselves and each other.

Theresa Freed 11:41

And of course, we still have a very large group of people in our population who qualify for no vaccine at this point. That's younger children. So we are hearing some news that maybe there's going to be some movement on getting children vaccinated in that five to 11 age group. Can you talk about the latest on that? Well,

Charlie Hunt 11:58

I think that we're all anxiously waiting for that to happen. I you know, I think it's important to note that, you know, the, the the authorization, the approval, and the recommendations are really just the first step. We have, you know, we're a large county, we have a lot of children that fall into that, that five to 11 years of age group, and it's going to take a while to get everybody vaccinated. And so in the meantime, again, reiterating all those things we've talked about before, and in terms of prevention, it's going to take a little time.

Theresa Freed 12:27

Okay, and of course, COVID-19 the Delta the variants are not the only things that are going to be going around this time of year we also have the flu, which is an annual visitor for for many of our families. And so can we talk a little bit about is it safe to get that flu shot when you get your COVID vaccine?

Stacie Province 12:45

Absolutely. So it has been cleared that you can give the COVID vaccine at the same time as a flu vaccine. So there is no problem with that at all, you can do that on the same visit. So I definitely would recommend that.

Theresa Freed 13:00

Okay, and you know, if it intensifies, like the side effects or anything like that, to kind of feel worse

Stacie Province 13:06

No, like we discussed with the booster dose, really, those same things can occur. Just the fatigue, sometimes after those vaccines, you might get some mild flu like symptoms and some localized muscle pain, but it should not magnify it and it has been approved to be given simultaneously.

Theresa Freed 13:27

Okay, and for our listeners, where can people go to get that first dose, second dose booster all of those shots and including the flu shot right now.

Stacie Province 13:38

You can go to any community provider for that, whether that be your primary care physician, specialist, local pharmacy or grocery store for those vaccines. You can also come see us at the Johnson County Health Department. We do. We are taking appointments currently for booster doses for the vice Pfizer vaccine as well as first and second dose COVID vaccine appointments. If you also need your flu vaccine, you can come see us at our Olathe location and we can take care of both of those there as well. booster dose and flu vaccine.

Theresa Freed 14:17

Well thank you both so much for being here today. And to get more information about the vaccines and COVID-19 in Johnson County you can go to Thanks for listening.

Announcer 14:28

You just heard JoCo on the Go. Join us next time for more everything Johnson County. Have a topic you want to discuss? We want to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at JoCoGov. For more on this podcast, visit Thanks for listening

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