The Mississippi State Department of Health currently advises immunocompromised patients to speak with their doctor or health-care provider about whether they would benefit from a COVID-19 booster shot, while new federal guidance may soon make boosters available to all. Photo courtesy National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
COVID-19 booster shots may soon be available to all Americans, thanks to new guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a statement this morning, HHS cleared the way for anyone vaccinated eight months prior to receive a booster shot beginning the week of Sept. 20, pending FDA approval of followup vaccine.
“Recognizing that many vaccines are associated with a reduction in protection over time, and acknowledging that additional vaccine doses could be needed to provide long lasting protection, we have been analyzing the scientific data closely from the United States and around the world to understand how long this protection will last and how we might maximize this protection,” the statement reads.
“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease,” it continues.
“Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout. For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.”
In addition to the third shot for those who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccinations, HHS anticipates a booster shot will also be available for those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“Our top priority remains staying ahead of the virus and protecting the American people from COVID-19 with safe, effective, and long-lasting vaccines especially in the context of a constantly changing virus and epidemiologic landscape,” the statement reads. “We will continue to follow the science on a daily basis, and we are prepared to modify this plan should new data emerge that requires it.”
Now: Boosters for Immunocompromised
Currently, the Mississippi State Department of Health offers booster-shot guidance for immunocompromised patients such as those undergoing cancer treatment or those with organ transplants. MSDH recommends that those patients speak with a physician or medical provider to evaluate the benefit of a booster shot. If deemed necessary, medical providers themselves would administer the booster shot, as MSDH does not currently provide them.
The new HHS guidance comes as the rise in delta variant cases continues to heavily tax Mississippi’s health-care staff and infrastructure. A second field hospital is set to open today in the garage of Jackson’s University of Mississippi Medical Center. The field hospital, provided by disaster relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, will care for some of the many COVID-19 patients inundating the state’s health-care system as the contagious delta variant has spiked past last year’s record cases and hospitalizations.
The CDC now places Mississippi as the third worst state in COVID-19 deaths per capita at 264 per 100,000, behind only New Jersey and New York. MSDH reported 4,085 new cases this morning along with 36 additional deaths.
School Infections Quadruple Since Last MSDH Report
School data from the week of Aug. 9-13 shows 4,521 new infections among Mississippi students. This is more than a quadrupling in infections since MSDH’s last report, though more than twice as many schools are now reporting weekly data. Schools reported 283 new outbreaks this week, with 948 infections among faculty and staff.
The rise in school outbreaks prompted Smith County to close its schools for two weeks starting on Aug. 23, after the death of eight-grade student Mkayla Robinson.
In total, Mississippi schools now have over 20,000 students in quarantine due to outbreaks, while MSDH reports almost 1,500 faculty and 6,000 students with COVID-19 infections since the beginning of August.
Email Reporting Fellow Julian Mills at [email protected].