Pfizer booster shots now available for certain patients

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to our ongoing coronavirus conversation. We’re finally able answer one of your most-asked questions, which is about the availability of booster shots. The green light for booster shots has officially been given to a limited group of people. This includes recipients of the Pfizer vaccine who are 65 years of age and older; adults living with an underlying medical condition that puts them at high risk of developing severe COVID-19; health care workers and adults living in long-term care facilities, including nursing homes and assisted-living facilities; workers whose jobs put them at risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus, such as grocery, delivery and other store workers; teachers; daycare staff; those dealing with the public in mass transportation; and the staff in shelters and prisons.

Boosters are recommended six months after the completion of the original two-shot series. They consist of a third dose of the original vaccine, given as a “reminder” to the immune system. People who have already received a third dose report that side effects are similar to those they experienced with the original series of shots. As with the vaccine, boosters will be available at pharmacies, doctors’ offices and health departments. Be sure to check that your specific location will be providing boosters.

Although recommendations regarding booster shots for those who have received either the Moderna or the Johnson & Johnson vaccines have not yet been made, those decisions are expected shortly.

Onward to another important topic. We’ve had several letters in which readers cited misinformation as they argued that masks don’t offer protection from the coronavirus. The gist is that the virus itself is so small that the woven material of a mask can’t block it. There’s a grain of truth there -- virions are, indeed, microscopic. However, virus particles, which are inert, can’t travel on their own. They are carried on the droplets of moisture that we release whenever we speak, sneeze, cough and even exhale. When it comes to those droplets, masks are quite effective at stopping them.

Elizabeth Ko, MD and Eve Glazier, MD

Research has also shown that when you wear a mask, not only does it safeguard others, but the barrier also protects you from the droplets emitted by those around you. That’s why the quality and fit of the mask you choose are so important. You want a tight weave, with a snug fit over the bridge of the nose, along the sides of the face and under the chin. The best are N-95 and KN-95 masks, which have once again become available to the general public. They come in children’s sizes, as well. Although when it comes to kids, as we’ve said before, the best mask is the one that your little one is willing to wear.

We’ll close by once again urging you to, please, if you haven’t already done so, get fully vaccinated. And be vigilant about wearing a good and well-fitting mask. The mask will slow the spread and reduce your risk of infection, and the vaccine will protect you from serious illness.

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10960 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1955, Los Angeles, CA 90025. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)


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