Adapted from a Q & A
Q: What’s the difference between a third shot and a booster?
A. There is a bit of confusion right now about what the difference is between a third covid vaccine and a booster shot. The term “third shot” or “additional dose” is used for a third dose that is needed by individuals that are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed because their immune systems either did not mount a vigorous response to the vaccine or its effects wane much more quickly than in a health immune system;
A booster shot on the other hand is the term used for another dose that is used to prolong immunity for healthy individuals in whom the vaccine elicited a full antibody response after the first two doses but now shows signs of waning neutralizing antibody protection. The booster shot helps the immune system ramp back up to initial protection levels. Many vaccines have booster doses that provide long term immunity. The hope is that a booster shot would provide enough durable immunity so that unlike the flu shot, no other boosters would be needed.
Q: When will booster doses be recommended?
A. The White House has indicated it is working towards FDA approval and has provided recommendations for a booster dose starting in September however the FDA and the CDC have not approved or released booster dose recommendations yet. Once FDA approves a booster dose the CDC vaccine advisory panel will make recommendations as to who should receive a booster dose. The booster dose will be given to people who have fully functioning immune systems. Providing this third booster dose second dose will increase the level of neutralizing antibodies to provide a longer and more robust protection against Sars COV2.
This booster dose will be available in Guthrie County as soon as it is FDA-approved and CDC-recommended. The health department will send reminder cards and is putting people on a waitlist for the booster dose. You can get on the list by calling 833-833-4600. Currently we are waiting for the full guidance for the booster shot to be provided.
Q. What is the current recommendation on getting a third shot (additional dose), and how will these be available in Guthrie County?
A. On August 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended an additional (third dose) COVID-19 vaccine for moderately to severely immunocompromised people in order to provide sustained boosted protection. This includes people who have the following:
- Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood (currently receiving chemotherapy or radiation)
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome); currently receiving IV treatment with Immune Globulin (IgG) medication
- Advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress a person’s immune response (Prescribed oral steroids for longer than two weeks or prescribed oral steroids more than three times over a one-year period)
This vaccine can be received 28 days after your second dose. The additional dose is the same dose as the first two, and it is recommended you receive the same brand as your first and second dose. These are currently available in Guthrie County at all of our pharmacies and through the health department. You can go to healthyguthrie.com to make an appointment or go to any of our pharmacies for a walk-in appointment. Make sure to bring your vaccination card so the third dose can be noted on the card.
Q. If someone received their first two shots in Guthrie County, will they be contacted directly about the third? What about people who received their first two shots elsewhere?
A. Once we have the full recommendations for the booster dose, the health department will work to get reminder cards out with recommended dates to every Guthrie County resident who received a shot, regardless of where they got their first shots. Individuals who received the shot at the health department will be directly contacted at the beginning of the month that they are due for a booster.
Q. What is the prevalence of the Delta variant in Guthrie County, and what is the trend line?
A. Over the last three months, the Delta variant has become the most prevalent variant In Guthrie County. It makes up 90 percent of all cases we are seeing in the county. Cases have been steadily rising, and in the past month we are seeing case numbers very similar to last year.
Q. Can we be confident the current vaccines available are effective against the Delta variant?
A. The current vaccines provide great protection against the Delta variant. Although there has been a decrease in overall efficacies from 95 percent to 92 percent, these vaccines still are keeping people from severe illness and hospitalizations. When we look at the data on who is getting severely ill and hospitalized, the majority of cases are amongst those who are not vaccinated.
Q. What is the percentage of new COVID cases in Guthrie County for those who are vaccinated vs. those who are not?
A. Currently less than 10 percent of COVID cases in Guthrie County are in those who are vaccinated. And 95% of those vaccinated individuals who have tested positive report very mild symptoms, with most making comparisons to allergies or sinus infections. Ninety percent of cases in Guthrie County are in unvaccinated individuals.
More than 85% of all hospitalizations in the last three months have been in unvaccinated individuals. In the hospitalizations that occurred in vaccinated individuals, all patients had immunocompromising conditions that made them much more vulnerable to hospitalization.
Q. What percentage of Guthrie County residents are vaccinated?
A. Countywide over 60 percent of all residents have been vaccinated. In residents 65 and older, this percentage is over 98 percent. In adults over 18, more than 65 percent are vaccinated, and we are closing in on 28 percent of residents under 18 and older than 12.
Q. Some people who have been vaccinated are getting COVID. Why do you think it’s still important to get vaccinated?
A. Vaccines are not 100 percent effective and we expected some people who were vaccinated would still get COVID-19. Even still, vaccines are the key to keeping people from getting severely ill and staying out of the hospital. When we get vaccinated, we are giving our body the ability to defend itself from the virus with neutralizing antibodies, and to rapidly respond when its defense is broken through to prevent severe disease.
Q. What do you think is ahead for us in the coming weeks and months?
A. Over the next few weeks, I think we will see cases continue to rise. We have started seeing that trend already. There are close to 4,000 individuals in Guthrie County who remain unvaccinated. Some may have already had a COVID-19 infection, providing some protection. But those who have had neither the vaccine nor an infection are the most vulnerable to severe infection. With the Delta variant being up to three times more transmissible than the variant we saw last year, and having a fairly large pocket of vulnerable residents, we anticipate the virus transmission rates to remain high.
We have seen several hospitalizations in the last two weeks of August, and anticipate seeing more primarily in our unvaccinated population while transmission rates remain high. We have also seen breakthrough cases in vaccinated residents and will most likely see more as high transmission rates increase exposures to both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents.