SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — On Wednesday, public health and medical experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced plans for booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.
Pending approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the plan is to offer booster shots for all Americans beginning the week of September 20 and starting 8 months after an individual’s second dose.
Avera doctor David Basel said fully vaccinated people should know the vaccines “continue to be very effective against coronavirus including the Delta variant.”
He said over time, there is a decrease of antibody levels for the virus.
“They are trying to get ahead of the game,” Dr. Basel said. “The worry is that at some point later this fall or into winter those antibody levels will get low enough that’ll we start to see an increase in the number of breakthrough cases with that.”
Health officials say they expect booster shots to be offered for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which didn’t start until March 2021.
Dr. Basel said the first group of people to receive booster shots would be people in nursing home settings and healthcare workers.
“Right now, my advice would be stay patient,” Dr. Basel said. “You are still very well protected at this point and will expect to be for the foreseeable future. This is looking ahead and trying to get ahead of things.”
He stressed anyone who becomes fully vaccinated will be protected.
“This isn’t like last winter where if you hadn’t got your shot yet then you weren’t protected,” Dr. Basel said.
COVID numbers ‘really ramping up’
The announcement about COVID-19 booster shots comes as the number of active coronavirus cases increased by 790 in the past seven days. Current hospitalizations are also above 100 for the first time since early May.
“It’s just remarkable how many more admissions we’ve had over the last week or two,” Dr. Basel said. “It’s night and day from what it was.”
Amid the rising case numbers and hospitalizations, Dr. Basel said he thinks there’ll be an increase in vaccinations soon.
“These numbers are really ramping up this last week or two,” Dr. Basel said. “They are escalating rapidly right now. I think people are going to come to that realization and we’ll start to see a lot more interest in vaccinations.”
Since the COVID-19 vaccine started being administered, Dr. Basel has said there’s a race between the virus variants and the number of people becoming vaccinated. “Unfortunately we’ve been losing that race the last two or three weeks,” Dr. Basel said. “Delta is really taking a hold.“
Dr. Basel highlighted the FDA is looking to grant full approval of the COVID-19 vaccines within weeks. He expects that’ll also lead to a boost in the number of people becoming vaccinated. In the meantime, he said people should be paying attention to COVID-19 case numbers and community spread in local areas.
“Kids are coming back into to school now so I think there’ll be a little bit more transmission within families again,” Dr. Basel said. “We still got that big end of the season tourism push that I think has brought a lot of it into our communities. We’re definitely seeing a different picture that we were three weeks ago.”
To find a COVID-19 vaccine people can search vaccines.gov or reach out to local pharmacies and local healthcare providers. More information can be found at the South Dakota Department of Health website.