Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) will begin administering a booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, Sept. 27, to population groups approved this week by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer booster on Wednesday (Sept. 22) and the CDC gave its approval late Thursday (Sept. 23).
Who’s eligible for a booster
Based on the FDA and CDC approvals, the Pfizer booster can be given at least six months after completion of the initial Pfizer two-shot series for people:
- Age 65 and older
- In long-term care facilities
- Age 50-64 with underlying medical conditions that increase their risk for COVID infection
- Age 18-64 with underlying medical conditions. The decision to receive a booster should be based upon individual circumstances that impact their overall risk of infection.
- Age 18-64 whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19 puts them at high risk for serious complications of COVID-19 including severe COVID-19. This group includes health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers and those in homeless shelters or prisons.
Underlying medical conditions that increase the risk of severe COVID infection include:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Down Syndrome
- Heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant or from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines
- Obesity (body mass index of 30 kg/m2 or higher but less than 40 kg/m2)
- Severe obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 40 kg/m2)
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
Scheduling a booster is recommended can be completed through MyLVHN, our patient portal, at MyLVHN.org, or by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 833-584-6283 (833-LVHN-CVD). The hotline is open Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. COVID-19 vaccinations will continue to be offered at LVHN’s vaccination clinic locations in the region, including in Whitehall and Palmer townships. Walk-ins also are accepted.
The other currently authorized COVID vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not yet received approval for boosters. The CDC and FDA will be evaluating data to support boosters for these vaccines in the coming weeks.
After the most recent action by the federal government, the COVID-19 vaccine breakdown is as follows:
Never received the COVID-19 vaccine
Don’t delay. Walk in to any LVHN COVID-19 vaccination clinic or make an appointment. Available vaccines: Pfizer (two-shot series), Moderna (two-shot series) and Johnson & Johnson (one shot)
If you have a moderately or severely compromised immune system, you can get a third shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least 28 days after the second shot of your initial two-shot series. LVHN recommends the same brand as the first two doses, if possible. This third shot was approved by the FDA in mid-August.
Seniors, at-risk workers and vulnerable populations (Pfizer only)
The FDA and CDC have authorized a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine be given at least six months after the second shot of the two-shot Pfizer series for those 65 and older, those in long-term care facilities, those 18-49 with underlying medical conditions (decision based on individual circumstances that impact their overall risk of infection), those 18-64 at high risk for severe COVID-19 and those 18-64 in certain high-risk occupations including health care workers, teachers and day care staff.
LVHN participated in the Pfizer clinical study on the necessity and effectiveness of a booster shot and continues to emphasize the importance of getting shots into the arms of unvaccinated people. The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for those 12 and older.
“The overriding concern remains the unvaccinated,” says Alex Benjamin, MD, Chief Infection Control and Prevention Officer, LVHN. “There are tens of millions of people in the U.S. who have yet to get their first shot of any of the approved COVID vaccines. That’s the primary reason we can’t yet see the end of this pandemic. The vaccines are in good supply and they are free, safe and effective.”