Savannah health care leaders encourage those eligible to get Pfizer booster shots

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 3:48 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Health care leaders around Savannah are encouraging eligible people to take advantage of the FDA-approved Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot.

Memorial Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen Thacker said a tiered approach to eligibility, such as when vaccines were first released, help protect those who need the booster most.

“If it’s a good tool to prevent someone from being harmed or end up in the hospital we need to provide it. That’s really that high risk group and that older population and then there’s a group of individuals where we really need to make sure they’re available to meet the need of their community all day every day,” said Dr. Thacker.

The Pfizer vaccine booster has been approved for people who received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago. Those eligible are people 65 and older, those living in long-term care settings, those 18 and older with underlying health conditions and those at an increased risk of exposure because of where they work.

Dr. Thacker said choosing not to get the booster could come with risks.

“Not choosing to get a booster when it’s recommended says that you’re accepting the risk that ‘I may be exposed and I may indeed get sick and infected,’” he said.

Dr. Thacker said there is a data-driven reason behind why the booster is recommended six months after the second dose.

“What Pfizer has found is that at about six months a certain percentage of individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine have a drop in their antibody concentrations in their blood that would suggest that they might be at risk for breakthrough infection,” he said. “It’s not 100% by any means and it impacts those who have underlying health conditions more significantly.”

Health departments affiliated with the Coastal Health District began administering Pfizer booster shots on Monday. Appointments are required.

Dr. Thacker said people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines shouldn’t worry about there not being a booster approved for them just yet.

“It’s very likely that a booster recommendation will be put forth for both and also, especially for the Moderna vaccine recipients, their data suggests that they have a longer lasting amount of protection compared to the Pfizer vaccine. So the timing may even be different for the Moderna vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Thacker said the data shows that the symptoms from the booster shot are similar to the symptoms that came after the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. He said at Memorial they’re working on making the booster shot available to their employees, as the majority of employees received the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Thacker said it appears we are heading out of the recent summer surge in Chatham County. Memorial Health currently has just under 90 COVID-19 patients. About five of them are under 18. Dr. Thacker said the hospital is also seeing fewer COVID patients in the ICU at this point.

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