COVID-19 booster shots could soon be on their way to Johnson County — what we know

COVID-19 booster

The FDA has authorized a third "booster" shot of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for individuals who are immunocompromised. A special CDC advisory panel is expected to take a vote Friday that could pave the way for distribution of doses to be used as "boosters" in the coming weeks. Currently, Johnson County health officials say "booster" shots are not available for fully vaccinated individuals. File photo.

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As the Delta variant continues to surge in the Kansas City region and around the U.S., a growing number of fully vaccinated people are beginning to ask if they will need a third “booster” shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment says nearly 58% of eligible Johnson County residents are fully vaccinated (and the CDC says that numbers is closer to 70%).

If you are fully vaccinated and healthy, the advice from local health officials right now is that there is not a pressing need for you to get a booster shot to combat the Delta variant.

But that could change in the future.

“For most people two doses is great,” said Dr. Jennier Schrimsher, head of infectious disease at Lawrence Medical Hospital in Lawrence, Kan. “There’s data showing efficacy [the ability to ward off infection] out past six months. At this point, I expect that to actually be a lot longer, probably closer to a year at least.”

It is important to note, while vaccinations are currently effective, they might lose some effectiveness against future strains of the virus, which could develop if the COVID-19 continues to spread, especially among the unvaccinated.

“There are different circulating strains and so these vaccines might not be as effective against future strains of the virus so I do think that we’ll have periodic boosters,” said Schrimsher.

That’s a situation similar to annual flu vaccines many people get, which are developed yearly to combat the latest mutation of influenza.

The current recommendation from the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment is to continue to wear masks in public, avoid large indoor gatherings and follow other safety precautions.

JCDHE reiterates that those who are fully vaccinated are much less likely to be infected or to suffer serious complications if they do get sick.

Boosters for the immunocompromised

On Thursday, the FDA did authorize a third “booster” shot of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for individuals with compromised immune systems.

The additional dose will now be offered to any eligible individual with underlying immune system complications such as an organ transplant or HIV.

Locally, JCDHE and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment say they will be following the CDC’s guidelines and will take appropriate action as it changes following the approval of the FDA vaccinations.

A CDC advisory panel is scheduled to take a vote Friday that could potentially pave the way for “booster” doses of vaccines to begin being distributed to states and counties.

Currently, however, JCDHE says it is has not received new recommendations for “booster” shots from the federal government and is not offering them at this time.

Some questions about booster shots

What is a ‘booster’ shot? 

  • It’s an extra administration of a vaccine after an earlier dose.
  • After initial immunization, a booster injection is a re-exposure to the virus a vaccine is trying to protect against. It boosts the immunity of an individual and protects from a weakened auto-immune system, new strains or variants of a virus.

When is a booster usually given? 

  • The timing of a booster shot varies, but it can be administered weeks or months after the initial vaccination. \
  • In other cases, boosters that protect against new strains of measles, mumps, and tetanus (all diseases that are constantly mutating) can be administered years after the first shot.

Is having to get a booster shot common? 

  • Yes, other vaccines — including those for tetanus or measles and mumps — require a booster shot.
  • This is because protection from the first shot goes away over time. The booster shot helps to raise the immunity levels, should an individual encounter the virus again.

Sharp rise in cases among children

JCHDE said the number of children under the age of 4 with COVID-19 has nearly tripled, when comparing the first week of July to the first week of August.

Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at KU Health, said that misinformation continues to plague the community. And that is having an impact on kids.

“There’s still myths going or opinions going around that children can’t get it, they can’t spread it, which is completely false,” Hawkinson said. “Children can get it.”

Meanwhile, following new research data, the CDC is now strongly recommending vaccinations for pregnant women.

Here are some key COVID-19 metrics in Johnson County:

  • Percent positive: 9.3% percent positive (increase from 8.5% on August 4)
  • Total deaths: 701 deaths (increase of 16 deaths since August 4)
  • Incidence rate: 354 incidence rate, number of new cases/100K persons, over prior 14 days (increase of 43 since August 4)
  • Cumulative cases: 50,949 positive cases of COVID-19 (increase of 1,083 since August 4)

Vaccination Opportunities:

First and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are also available on a walk-in basis at the county’s vaccination clinic in Mission.

The clinic is located at 6000 Lamar Ave., Suite 140, Mission, KS 66202.8

It’s hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday thorugh Thursday

While the Mission office will serve as the primary vaccination site, individuals being seen for other services at the department’s Olathe walk-in clinic can also get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Each week the JCDHE will host several COVID-19 vaccination clinics across Johnson County. You can see an updated list here.