by Sally James
The past few days have seen a confusing swirl of decisions by health experts at the federal level, but here’s how the COVID-19 vaccine dust is settling. Anyone over 65 who received the Pfizer vaccine can now get a third “booster” shot. Medical experts say the booster can improve protection against COVID-19, which gradually wanes about six months after people get the first two shots.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky announced on Thursday, Sept. 24, that the booster is available to everyone over 65 and also to health care workers, teachers, and others in high-risk jobs. She overruled the recommendation of her own advisory committee, which had excluded high-risk occupations.
Within days, vaccine providers at drive-in, pharmacy, and other outlets will likely begin taking appointments for those who qualify for the Pfizer booster. Those who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines will need to wait until those boosters are approved later in the year.
For children ages 5–11, there was also good news this week. Pfizer officials announced they will seek approval from the CDC to offer those shots later this fall, maybe by Halloween. But other experts warned that approval for the child-safe doses will require further review, and approval is not guaranteed.
Even if the approved COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use in children are approved soon, getting kids vaccinated in time to trick-or-treat may be ghoulishly optimistic. Since full protection is gained two weeks after the final shot, little goblins and mermaids will need a two-to-six-week runway before they have immunity. With All Hallows’ Eve looming large in just over five weeks, there is hardly the time to get younger kids fully vaccinated.
But Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are encouraging vaccinations for both COVID-19 and the flu. Even without a clear date of when COVID-19 vaccination for young children will begin, public schools are offering flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinics, which open this weekend and continue into October. (See more information below.)
Every kind of gathering — indoors and outdoors — has become more complicated as fall begins. More and more restaurants require proof of vaccination to dine indoors. Sports stadiums are asking people to wear masks, but recent photographs of the stands at the Seahawks home opener showed many fans without any face covering. As the delta variant continues to burn through the unvaccinated, the best defense is to get vaccinated. Even being vaccinated may not fully protect you from becoming infected, but vaccination will likely reduce the severity of the infection and keep more people out of crowded hospitals.
This week, Gov. Jay Inslee and State health authorities asked federal authorities to provide extra staff to help overburdened hospitals in Washington while the State Department of Health (DOH) asked retired medical personnel to volunteer to help. In a press release, the DOH said it was trying to fill 900 requests from 15 different counties. (To volunteer, visit the DOH website.)
Finally, renters received some relief from both Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Gov. Jay Inslee.
Durkan extended the eviction moratorium in the City of Seattle until January 15, 2022. Inslee extended the statewide ban until Oct. 31 of this year.
At the Emerald, we are trying to stay current on the latest public health guidance related to COVID-19. As questions arise, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s what readers want to know this week:
How can I get my teen a COVID-19 vaccine at a public school in the South End?
The Seattle Public Schools (SPS) are offering shots for both the flu and COVID-19 at a variety of school buildings over a few upcoming weekends. Garfield, Rainier Beach, and Chief Sealth high schools and Washington Middle School have COVID-19 vaccines available while many more offer flu shots. Here’s the full SPS list of dates and times for on-site COVID-19 and flu vaccine clinics. They are accepting appointments as well as taking walk-ins. These clinics are open to members of the public — you don’t need to be a student or staff member of the school to receive your shots there.
Is it safe for my kid to get both a flu shot and a COVID-19 shot on the same day?
The CDC has stated that people can safely receive a flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine on the same day.
Public health experts are warning of a potentially worse flu season this fall and winter. With students being back in school buildings and society generally opening up, doctors are bracing for a bad flu year. And with hospitals already suffering from an overload of patients, health officials hope to prevent hospitalizations from flu in addition to COVID-19 by encouraging both vaccinations.
What if my landlord tries to evict me? I’ve heard that Mayor Jenny Durkan extended protections, but what if my landlord ignores that?
Mayor Durkan announced Sept. 21 that she was extending protections against eviction until January 15, 2022. Tenants who receive an eviction notice during the moratorium should contact the Renting in Seattle hotline at 206‐684‐5700. Here is the full announcement from the mayor’s office.
Is there a scientific research study on COVID-19 treatments here in Seattle?
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in South Lake Union has a special COVID-19 clinical research center to study treatment and household-spread-prevention medications and methods.
The main drug currently offered is molnupiravir. It is an antiviral pill first developed for the flu. Like most studies, some of the people who volunteer will get the drug and others will receive a placebo — a pill that does not contain the drug. All study-related care is free, and the research center can also provide free transportation.
I want a booster shot, but I don’t know if I’m eligible yet. It’s not available for all ages, right?
Correct. The Moderna booster shot is only being offered to people with a vulnerable immune system, often because they have an underlying disease or are being treated with drugs that dampen their immune system. The J&J booster is being reviewed by the FDA and is slated for approval soon.
This week the CDC approved a Pfizer booster for people 65 and older, as well as others at a high risk of severe illness. Those include anyone over 18 with an underlying medical condition. The CDC advises that people 18–64 years old consider their individual benefit and risk and consult with a medical provider before they get a Pfizer booster shot. The CDC also approved a Pfizer booster for anyone working in a job with an increased risk of being exposed to the virus. This includes doctors, nurses, and teachers.
If you do not yet qualify for a booster but still want one, you may consider entering a vaccine research study. The University of Washington is recruiting people to get boosters as part of a study. The boosters they are offering now are designed to provide protection against a variety of variants of the COVID-19 virus.
My daughter is in soccer, and I’m not sure I understand the rules for her masking and not masking. What are they?
An earlier story in the Emerald has details for SPS sports, but specific leagues or clubs may operate from different guidelines. Beacon Hill Youth Soccer, for example, requires masks for all players and adults for teams where unvaccinated children are participants. Families should read up on their child’s school and after-school activities to know what is required.
Sally James is a science writer in Seattle. You can read more of her work at www.seattlesciencewriter.com. She’s written about biotech, cancer research, and health literacy and volunteered as president of the nonprofit Northwest Science Writers Association.
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