California, Colorado and NM Expand COVID-19 Booster Access – Community News
Covid-19

California, Colorado and NM Expand COVID-19 Booster Access

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is one of three U.S. states to now allow coronavirus booster shots for all adults, though federal health officials recommend limiting doses to those most at risk.

The nation’s most populous state, along with Colorado and New Mexico, have implemented policies to try and avoid a dreaded holiday wave when more people gather indoors.

Colorado and New Mexico have some of the highest rates of new infections in the country, while California — the lowest in the country earlier this fall — now joins them in the “high” transmission level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order on Friday to expand eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots. The acting secretary of her state health department, Dr. David Scrase, said the rising number of cases has overwhelmed some hospitals in New Mexico.

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“COVID-19 is incredibly opportunistic and our job is to ensure that the virus has fewer and fewer opportunities to spread,” said Scrase. “When it comes time to get a booster, do it right away.”

The administration of President Joe Biden had sought approval for boosters for all adults, but advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration decided in September that it is not clear that young healthy people need another dose. They instead only recommended boosters for people over 65 and younger people with certain underlying health conditions or whose jobs pose a high risk of the virus.

In California, Tomás Aragón, the state’s public health officer, sent a letter to local health officials and providers saying they should “allow patients to determine their risk of exposure for themselves.”

“Don’t turn down a patient requesting a booster” if they’re 18 and older and it’s been six months since they received their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or two months since their single Johnson & Johnson shot, he wrote.

He told pharmacies to prioritize boosters for people in skilled nursing or assisted living homes because of the waning immunity from the previous shots. But in general, providers “shouldn’t miss an opportunity” to give vaccines to unvaccinated people or boosters to everyone else when they visit a drugstore, hospital, or medical office.

Many states are now dealing with rising cases and more hospitalizations. Nationally, there were about 73,000 new cases a day in the past week, about 10,000 more than three weeks ago.

In Colorado, where some hospitals have stretched to breaking point, Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday to expand the use of booster shots. A day later, he received a dire warning for the roughly 20% of eligible people in his state who have yet to receive a single dose.

“We wouldn’t even talk about this if everyone was vaccinated,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “If you are not vaccinated, you will get COVID. Maybe this year, maybe next year.”
Officials in Colorado, California and New Mexico said they have enough vaccines to give the first vaccines and boosters to anyone who wants them.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the Biden administration will continue to advise health leaders across the country to “abide by the federal government’s public health guidelines.”

California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said earlier this week that California’s decision does not violate federal guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were “very clear that they had two categories: groups that should get a booster and groups that could.” he said.

“We know a number of Californians work in crowded public institutions,” Ghaly said. “Because of your work-related risk or even living with people with underlying conditions(s) who are themselves at higher risk, or you’re a member of a community that has been raped and severely affected by COVID…it’s allowed by the CDC and the FDA to go ahead and get the booster.

dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, said boosters were left behind. This is worrying as winter approaches and the highly contagious delta variant, which caused a summer peak, continues to circulate.

The delta variant is “very good at finding people, including people who had themselves vaccinated at the beginning of this year and now that the vaccination has worn off a bit,” she said. “Delta is a powerful force and everyone needs that third dose.”


Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Denver, Susan Montoya in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.