A blue-gloved hand holds a syringe labeled "COVID-19 Booster Vaccination"Photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock.com.

Boosters Open Up for Wider Group, Vaccine Likely for Children 5–11

by Sally James

People who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to prevent serious COVID-19 disease are eligible to get a booster, even if they don’t fall into any high-risk category. The Washington Dept. of Health (DOH) included this announcement in their virtual press conference on Oct. 27.

National vaccine regulators approved booster doses of vaccine for people who received Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines Oct. 20, but the recommendations differ depending on which vaccine a person originally took. Earlier this year, the Pfizer boosters were approved for people at high risk — from their age or occupation or an underlying medical condition. Regulators also approved only people at high risk, in the same categories, for Moderna boosters.

With the J&J vaccine, health officials urge all people, even those younger and with no extra risks, to come in and get a booster vaccine dose two months after their original shot of J&J. The reason for allowing boosters sooner for everyone with J&J is that a single shot seems to be less effective at protecting people than the other two-shot vaccines. The DOH estimates about 393,000 people in Washington state had a J&J vaccine.

Just to add more complexity, the Food and Drug Association also approved mixing and matching different vaccines, so that a person who originally received J&J might choose to get Moderna or Pfizer for a booster. Likewise, a person who received Pfizer might choose to get a Moderna booster.

Besides people choosing to get boosters, children ages 5-11 may be approved for a lowered-dose of Pfizer vaccine by as early as late next week. One committee of the FDA has recommended approval of a two-shot vaccine for them, but other regulators have to approve that. A meeting is scheduled for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to consider final approval on Nov 2 and 3.

State officials estimate there are about 680,000 children ages 5–11 in Washington and about 183,000 of them live in King County. Health officials speaking at the press conference said they believe about 30% of families will move quickly to seek vaccination for this age group and others may wait longer.

Vaccines for children will be available at pharmacies, doctor’s offices, and clinics. 

The City of Seattle opened a new vaccine center downtown earlier this month and will open another new clinic in West Seattle tomorrow. The West Seattle clinic will be at Neighborhood House in the High Point area. The clinic will be open Fridays from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The City Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, OIRA, has partnered with community groups to create helplines for speakers of multiple languages. Find more information on these groups on the City of Seattle website. 

For those who are already vaccinated or those who have been tested and can show proof of a negative result, this week has been the first big rollout under the State requirement that these proofs are widely required for indoor spaces like gyms, restaurants, and movie theaters. There are multiple ways to show vaccine proof. 

  1. Show the paper card that you were given when you received your vaccine.

This method works, but it is a bit risky to carry that paper around with you. It may be better to make a copy of that original card to carry with you.

  1. Show a photo of your card, if you have a cell phone. 

You can take a photo of your vaccine card or cards. If you “favorite” this photo or put it in a folder, it may be easier to call it up and show to an attendant in a hurry. Register with MyIR Mobile, a State app that links your vaccination record to your phone or laptop. Using MyIR Mobile, you can also print a QR code or other paper piece of evidence of your vaccination.

Public Health — Seattle & King County  created a video about the different options. 

Asking for proof from customers is not a big problem, according to one of the co-owners of Mioposto Pizzeria in Mt. Baker. Jeremy Harder told the Emerald:

“So far, so good. No push back yet. People who have been vaccinated seem to be proud or at least okay to show their proof.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated that DOH “urged” people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to get a booster. The DOH instead announced that even people not at high risk are eligible for boosters.

Sally James is a science writer in Seattle. You can read more of her work at SeattleScienceWriter.com. She’s written about biotech, cancer research, and health literacy and volunteered as president of the nonprofit Northwest Science Writers Association.

📸 Featured Image: Photo by Tobias Arhelger/Shutterstock.com.

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