Is a booster needed?

The CDC has approved a booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine for some people with compromised immune systems. Tribune file photo

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends an extra COVID-19 shot for people with compromised immune systems, but San Mateo County won’t be offering the shots at its clinics. Instead, health officials are recommending immunocompromised people work with their doctors to secure an extra dose of the vaccine.

“Boosters are not administered at our community-based vaccine clinics at this time,” County Health Public Information Officer Preston Merchant wrote in a statement to the Review.

Merchant said on Monday that the county is encouraging people who are classified as immunocompromised by the CDC to go to their healthcare provider for guidance and another shot. The CDC is currently only recommending extra doses for people with certain conditions that make their immune systems more vulnerable to disease, like those receiving cancer treatment or who are taking immunosuppressants. That’s because new studies are showing that vaccine doses aren’t as effective in people with weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to hospitalization and death from the disease.

The CDC has only authorized additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, and recommends getting the same brand shot for a third dose, if possible. Extra doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine are not yet approved.

Merchant said the county isn’t offering these shots at its clinics because it has not yet gotten guidance from the California Department of Public Health on how to offer third doses at county clinics, which are only set up to administer and track first and second doses.

At this time, extra shots are only approved and available to people who meet the CDC’s list of at-risk populations. But vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer have said everyone will need booster shots to keep up a robust response against the disease. The federal government isn’t currently recommending a booster shot, but may in the future.

Merchant said San Mateo County is prepared to meet the demand for boosters should they be approved and recommended for the general public across the state.

“We will wait for guidance from the state and others, and when the time comes, we will make it happen,” Merchant said.

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