Louisiana health officials outline requirements for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots

William Taylor Potter
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana Department of Health officials emphasized the need to eligible residents to get a COVID-19 booster of any kind — regardless of what type of vaccine they received — during a meeting briefing on Friday.

The briefing came after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said individuals could "mix and match" booster shots, meaning they could get any booster regardless of which vaccine they initially received. 

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also OK'd mixing and matching boosters, allowing clinics, doctors and pharmacies to begin Friday.

"These are incredibly effective and safe vaccines," said Dr. Frank Welch, the medical director of emergency preparedness for the Louisiana Department of Health. "We are monitoring side effects of the vaccine. But again, in Louisiana, it remains to be the best protection against COVID and what is going to bring this pandemic down to a manageable level."

If someone received the two Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations at least six months ago, people aged 65 and older, people aged 18 and older with an underlying condition, and people aged 18 and older that work in a setting that exposes them to COVID-19 are recommended to get a booster.

Anyone who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get a booster if they are at least two months out from the initial vaccination.

Welch said while a lot of emphasis is being put on boosters, it's important to continue pushing for those who have not been vaccinated to get the shot, especially as flu season begins.

Welch said anyone who has received the two Pfizer and Moderna shots or the one Johnson & Johnson dose are still considered fully-vaccinated. At this time, universities and other groups that have mandated the vaccine have not released requirements 

Pregnant women are among the groups that should get a COVID-19 booster, Welch said. More than 125,000 pregnant women have gotten COVID in the U.S., and more than 22,000 of those had to be hospitalized.

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During the delta wave in Louisiana, the state has had at least 1,700 cases where pregnant women contracted COVID. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has had 10 maternal deaths and 16 fetal deaths related to COVID infection during pregnancy.

None of the severe health outcomes related to pregnancy and COVID occurred with vaccinated women, according to Dr. Theresa Sokol, the state epidemiologist.

Welch said there is not a lot of data out now about the long-term benefits of certain mix-and-match combinations.

Sokol said the state has made strides since the peak of the delta variant surge, transmission is still fairly high across Louisiana. Sokol said all but seven of the state's parishes remain in the two highest risk categories for community spread.

Unvaccinated individuals are 6.1 times more likely to contract COVID-19 and are 11.3 times more likely to die from the virus. There's also increased likelihood that new variants — ones that are more severe, more contagious or that may resist vaccines — emerge as high rates of transmission continue.

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Sokol the state has had 733 fully vaccinated people die from COVID, though around 75% were above the age 70 and many were immunocompromised or had underlying health issues like kidney disease or diabetes. Sokol said it's imperative that these groups get booster shots.

"Vaccination really and truly is the best way to protect ourselves, our families, our communities from the devastating impacts of COVID-19," Sokol said. "Fully-vaccinated people are highly protected against severe illness and death."