More people now qualify for vaccine boosters, but state health officials discourage ‘self-referring’ – KCAW

State health officials are preparing to vaccinate a new wave of children in the coming weeks. At a statewide press conference on Thursday (10-28-21) Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said children from ages 5 to 11 will be eligible for coronavirus vaccinations soon. 

“So Pfizer is being evaluated right now for the five to 11. There was data presented to the FDA advisory panel, and that was great to actually see a lot of that data,” Zink said. “And based on the data that they saw, as well as the risk of COVID-19, they felt as though that it was recommended to go ahead and extend the EUA to the five to 11. That doesn’t mean the process is over.”

The vaccine was fully authorized by the FDA on Friday (10-29-21). It will now go to the CDC advisory committee for full CDC approval.

While vaccine eligibility is likely opening up for many more children in the coming weeks, booster shots are still relatively limited by strict CDC guidelines. But even if you don’t technically qualify, it’s not hard to self-refer for a booster shot. 

DHSS staff physician Dr. Lisa Rabinowitz said they weren’t encouraging that. 

“The good news is the vaccines are still very protective against severe disease. And so they looked at different age groups, different risk categories, and really made a determination on who needed a booster at this time. So if those individuals are six months out, then it’s time to get a booster,” she said. “For the younger, healthier population, at this point, we do not recommend that you go and self-refer for a booster. They’ve been very clear about, after reviewing the data, who would really benefit from that. And again, it’s a risk benefit ratio that they look at in terms of making decisions for that.” 

Even so, the CDC recently added new risk categories to its list of conditions that qualify an individual as “high risk” making more Americans eligible for a third shot. 

“A couple of those changes are around mental health. So depression, schizophrenia, some of those mental health considerations have been added to the list of higher risks,” said Rabinowitz. “Also, for caregivers of high risk individuals, you are eligible for a booster because really, we want you available and ready to help whoever you’re helping in that situation.”

Booster doses are available to a variety of people, including Americans over 65, anyone over 18 who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, those between 18 and 65 considered ‘high risk’ and individuals who work in settings with a high likelihood of exposure to the virus, such as grocery stores.

Read the full list of qualifiers here.

You can find links to sign up for a vaccination or booster dose here.

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