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NC waiting on CDC guidance before giving booster shots to elderly

Posted September 20, 2021 7:15 p.m. EDT
Updated September 20, 2021 8:02 p.m. EDT

— The state health department said on Monday that elderly North Carolinians will have to wait for their chance to get a COVID-19 booster shot.

The Federal Drug Administration advisory panel recommended on Friday that people 65 and older get a third shot, but health officials in North Carolina said the state would wait for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's approval to make them available to the elderly.

Right now, only those with a weakened immune system can get a Pfizer booster shot but, that could change if the CDC gives approval for people 65 and over to get a third shot at meetings this week. All others are encouraged to wait until boosters are approved for their demographic.

Research shows that immunity from the COVID-19 vaccine could wane after a couple months. One study indicates that vaccines are only about 70% effective at preventing a severe case of COVID-19 after 6 to 7 months.

"We can quickly see the booster folks overwhelming and pushing those first and second dose folks out of the line. It’s really a way for us to preserve spots for anyone who is eligible, no matter the stage of vaccination they are in," said Stacy Beard, spokesperson with with the Wake County Department of Health.

With the increase in staff, Wake County is able to doll out more than 2,000 doses each day.

"24 to 48 hours after we get the approval, we’ll be able to open up our appointment system for those to get boosters," she said. "And you might not be able to get it that day or the next. It may be two weeks before you can get it." 

Those looking to get a booster shot will be asked to declare that they are 65 and older or immunocompromised by signing a digital form. Health officials say no medical proof is required.

"If they tell us they are immunocompromised, we do not do a deep dive into their medical history,"according to Bruce Robistow, health director for the Halifax County Health Department.

He said there has not been a huge demand for the booster shot in his county.

"The population that seemed to have the highest demand was those 65 and older. Now that it’s immunocompromised and 65 and older, I’m hopeful the demand climbs," he said.

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