Colorado Residents could start getting COVID booster shots as early as next week if federal health officials approve the applications. 67% of Coloradans are currently fully vaccinated. The rate rises significantly in the older populations, 83% over 65 have had or are waiting for their final doses. The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still need to review the boosters before approval. Governor Jared Polis believes two employees who recently left the FDA have “blood on their hands” for delaying third shots. He also made complaints against federal health officials for their pace in authorizing vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11. “At the very least, the FDA should get out of the way and allow people to make the choice to protect themselves,” Polis said. Many officials feel the same way Polis does. How important are COVID boosters now that cases are trending down?
COVID Cases Decline in Colorado
Dr. Dhruv Khullar, assistant professor of health policy and economics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said none of the current studies make a good case for booster shots. He said getting everyone their first dose is more important than a booster. “There’s no slam-dunk case that most of the population needs a booster at this time,” he said. Current vaccines do not protect you from getting COVID but are protection against hospitalization and death, though their effectiveness against the delta variant remains to be seen and studied by officials. COVID vaccines are not like traditional vaccines, they are made to lessen symptoms rather than prevent illness. That being said, a majority of Colorado’s population has received vaccinations and COVID cases dropped last week for the first time since June. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recorded only 11,132 new cases across the state last week.
Sedgwick and San Juan counties have less than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Once a county reaches 50 cases per 100,000 people, the CDC recommends that everyone wear masks in public indoor spaces. Even though case numbers have dropped, hospitalizations are rising, with 914 confirmed COVID cases and over 80 possible cases. This is the highest number of hospitalizations since 1,000 patients were confirmed to have COVID in January. If cases continue to decline, hospitalizations will follow soon after, according to Talia Quandelacy, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health. “There does seem to be a decline in cases, at least for now,” she said. “We’ll have to see in a few days.” Every Colorado county has at least one vaccine provider, whether that’s a hospital, retail pharmacy or outpatient clinic. Would vaccinations and booster shots help hospitalizations decline?
Who will be First to Receive Boosters?
The White House is currently promoting boosters with the idea that they will be approved this month, if both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree. When the FDA and CDC decide boosters are needed, nursing home residents will be the first to receive them. Next, people who have the Pfizer shot will be boostered; a majority of nursing home residents received the Pfizer. “This is a moment where similar leadership is needed by the Biden administration to make sure that the FDA does not succeed in using ivory tower circular reasoning to further delay the life-saving booster,” Polis said. The Colorado National Guard and top medical providers are working to schedule vaccination and booster clinics, according to Lt. Col. Jamie Pieper. Officials say it is possible some people may have difficulty finding a booster in the first days and weeks they’re offered.
The Pfizer booster is closer to being approved than the others. Studies are still attempting to determine if people who received the Johnson & Johnson shot would benefit from a second dose. The FDA has asked Pfizer and Moderna to add a larger number of children to their study in order to detect rare side effects. Pfizer is expected to hand in their study results by the end of September. Officials are “very, very hopeful” that vaccinations for children 5- 11 years old will be reality by December. No matter your age, Colorado officials are making sure all the citizens of the centennial state are able to be safely vaccinated and boostered if they choose. Are boosters actually necessary? The answer seems to be unclear for now… only time will tell. Have you been vaccinated? If so, do you believe you need a booster?
Written by: Erinn Malloy