New York City health officials on Monday encouraged all adults who want to receive coronavirus vaccine boosters to seek them out, and asked health providers not to turn them away, a move that comes as federal regulators consider expanding the eligibility pool for Pfizer-BioNTech’s booster.
Anyone who is 18 or older and seeking a booster shot in New York City should not be turned away, said Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the city’s health commissioner, provided it has been at least six months since their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months since they received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
“Clinicians should allow adult patients to determine their own risk of exposure based on their individual circumstances,” said Dr. Chokshi.
Federal regulators allow booster shots for those 65 years and older. They also allow adults who are in long-term care, have underlying medical conditions or who work in high-risk environments. Pfizer and BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to expand eligibility for their booster to all adults last week.
“For qualifying for a booster, if you’re over 18, one of the specific criteria is being at higher risk and I view all New Yorkers, because of the density of our city, of being at higher risk,” said Dr. Mitchell Katz, the head of the city’s public hospitals.
A growing body of early global research has shown that the vaccines available in the United States have remained highly protective against the disease’s worst outcomes over time.
However, a number published studies show that the vaccines have suffered a decline in protection against infection. Experts in public healthcare say that this does not mean that the vaccines are no longer effective. But the significance of waning effectiveness — and whether it suggests that all adults should be eligible for a booster — is still up for debate.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Dr. Chokshi and Dr. Chokshi encouraged New Yorkers to use the federal guidelines loosely and allow more adults to get the booster. Monday’s Dr. Chokshi reported that more than 630,000 New Yorkers have received a booster shot.
This is part of an effort slowing the spread of the virus in the winter and before the holiday season. When temperatures drop, spending more time indoors may increase your risk of becoming exposed.
According to the New York Times database, New York City has seen an increase in new cases recently. Sunday’s average number of daily cases was 1,074, which is 32 percent more than it was two weeks earlier. Over the same period, average hospitalizations have fallen 17%.
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The city’s encouragement comes after California, Colorado and New Mexico have broadened access to boosters.
On Monday afternoon, Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York echoed city leaders’ pleas. “I am strongly encouraging all New Yorkers who live or work in a high-risk setting to get the booster,” she said in a statement. “I received the booster, and believe no one who feels they are at risk should be turned away from getting a Covid-19 booster shot.”
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson stated Monday that he had instructed the Arkansas state health department, to issue new guidelines for boosters. This would allow all adults to get one if they meet the timing requirements.
A spokeswoman for department stated that it had updated its recommendations, and would be advising health-care providers that boosters can be administered to adults.
“What we’re finding is that we want more people to get their booster shot and that this is somewhat confusing and limiting as to the eligibility of those that ought to be getting their booster shot and so in consultation with the Department of Health, this, we’re changing that,” Mr. Hutchinson said.
If federal regulators sign off on Pfizer and BioNTech’s request, it would make official what health authorities say they already see happening frequently — that many people appear to be getting boosters whether or not they are technically eligible. The President Biden announced plans to make boosters accessible to all adults in mid-August. However, the campaign was delayed by regulators who demanded more time to examine data.
On the news show “Fox News Sunday,” Dr. Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, said that “millions of people are eligible who have not yet gotten their booster shot, and we want to focus on that.” He also acknowledged that some states were seeking “broad protection” for their residents in making their own moves, and that the F.D.A. After analyzing the data, and ensuring that booster shots are safe for all, Dr. Vivek Murthy will weigh in.
Dr. Chokshi also advised health care providers to continue reaching out to vulnerable populations about booster shots, especially those who are 65 and older, those who have underlying medical conditions, and those who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Dan Levin contributed reporting.
Source: NY Times