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Utah doctor calls Pfizer booster shots for all adults important to ending pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY – Pfizer asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine booster for everyone 18 and older. Some adults were already eligible for the booster and Pfizer now wants authorization for all adults. 

Right now, people are only eligible for the Pfizer or Moderna boosters if they’re over 65, a healthcare provider, or at high risk. An infectious disease doctor at Saint Mark’s Hospital/MountainStar Healthcare thinks the boosters are an important step to rid our community of the virus. 

“We’ve still got a lot of COVID, right? Here in Utah, we’re not doing so hot,” said Dr. Mark Oliver. 

He said the trial data shows vaccine boosters are needed to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

“The majority of our elderly people are getting vaccinated and that is protecting them. The reason we’re seeing younger people dying from COVID is because they’re not getting vaccinated,” Oliver explained. 

Federal health officials expressed concern that protection from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines waned to about 70% after six months. 

“Even over a period of six months, these vaccines don’t work as well as when we first got them,” said Dr. Oliver. “So, a booster can restore that immunity.” 

It could be as high as 95% protection, even while Delta is the dominant strain, according to the trial data Pfizer collected. 

“We know these vaccines work,” the doctor said. “They protect against disease. More importantly, they protect against hospitalization and death, that’s the biggest benefit of these vaccines.” 

People who got a Pfizer or Moderna shot six months ago may get a booster if they are at least 65, at risk of severe COVID-19 due to a medical condition, or at risk due to living conditions or work. If you got the Johson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago, you are eligible for the second dose now. 

According to the Utah Department of Health, more than 235,000 eligible Utahns have rolled up their sleeves for either a booster or third dose since August 13. 

Oliver recommends sticking with the same vaccine but, it’s also safe to mix. As the pandemic continues, so does the stress for caregivers. 

“It’s really hard to see young people dying from this day after day after day, especially when you know that the majority of those deaths are preventable,” the doctor said.
Early in the pandemic, he said, it was the elderly dying from COVID-19 in the hospital. Today, it’s people in their 30s and 40s. 

“A lot of them are healthy, and they come in and they’re dying from COVID because they’re not getting vaccinated.”

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