With the holidays approaching, there is growing pressure to give more adults their booster shots in hopes of boosting immunity and warding off a potential COVID-19 wave in the winter.
More than 3.7 million Californians have received a booster dose to date, according to the State Department of Public Health. By comparison, about 25 million people statewide are fully vaccinated.
Who is now eligible for a booster?
According to federal guidelines, adults can receive a booster if they are at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of where they work or live.
Traditionally, the criteria for “increased risk,” as set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have been applied to those who work in places such as hospitals, schools, supermarkets, or factories — or those who live in communal environments, such as prisons or shelters. for homeless people.
But the wording of the recently enacted criteria is broad, and some health officials, including in California, are now increasingly pointing out that it can be interpreted in a much broader way.
Which conditions are covered?
The list of qualifying medical conditions is extensive, including being overweight, pregnant or a current or former smoker, or high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, depression, or an alcohol or drug use disorder.
Based on all of those criteria, “virtually anyone qualifies,” said Dr. Sara Cody, the health officer and public health director for Santa Clara County, Northern California’s most populous county. “We really encourage everyone to get out there and get their booster shot.”
What are California officials saying?
dr. Tomás Aragón, a state health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health, sent a letter Tuesday instructing vaccine providers to “let patients determine their risk of exposure for themselves. Don’t turn down a patient who asks for a booster.”
Adults eligible for a booster may be those who “live in geographic areas that have been hit hard by COVID”, those who “live in high-speed transmission areas”, “who work with the public or live with someone who has publicly work” or “live or collaborate with someone at high risk of serious consequences from COVID,” Aragón wrote.
There may also be “other risk conditions as assessed by the individual,” he added.
On Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health summarized its booster guidelines as follows: “In general terms that anyone can understand, we urge Californians to get a booster if anyone in their home has a medical condition or if they work around other people. ”
Officials say the state’s MyTurn platform will have the ability to screen residents’ eligibility for boosters and send text messages to notify people of available options.
Boosters are also available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and county-run vaccination centers.
Here’s a full breakdown of the state booster.
Why the push for boosters?
Without a booster, health officials warn, vaccinated people will be at greater risk of breakthrough infections, which could lead to hospitalizations and death in the most vulnerable.
“If you think you’ll benefit from getting a booster shot, I encourage you to go out there and get it,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California secretary of health and human services, at a briefing Wednesday.
He added: “It’s not too late to get it this week. Get that extra protection for the Thanksgiving gatherings you may be attending. Certainly, going into the other winter holidays is important.”
Nearly 70% of Californians have already received at least one dose of vaccine, and about 63% are fully vaccinated, according to data collected by The Times. However, those numbers remain well below what health officials believe is necessary to halt the pandemic.
“We are concerned about the winter. We are concerned about the rising number of cases, the pressure on our hospitals from a number of other issues on top of COVID,” Ghaly said. “So do what you can today to get your vaccine. Protect yourself in the winter.”