Dr. Laura Miller
Throughout the past two years, I have often summed up the frequent changes, updates, and modifications to Covid-19-related guidance and recommendations as an opportunity for the public to “live at the speed of science.” We rarely have had the opportunity to observe the processes and procedures for development of vaccines, treatment protocols, and scientific advances in disease evaluation and treatment. The newest updates to the Covid-19 vaccination schedule are no different.
As a family physician in rural Mississippi, I practice in an outpatient clinic setting, inpatient hospital setting, and in a long-term care facility. I have found myself frequently consulted by patients and employees of these facilities, as well as local schools, businesses, and civic and religious groups to answer questions and recommendations regarding the details of vaccinations. Several times during 2021 and earlier this year, the FDA and CDC have updated their Covid-19 vaccine guidance with regards to boosters.
Currently, with very rare exceptions, everyone aged 5 and up is eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. Individuals aged 12 and older who have received their primary Covid-19 vaccination series may be eligible for a third dose of vaccine, and many are now eligible for a booster. The difference in these two terms is that a “third dose” of vaccine is available for those with significant immunocompromise who are at high risk for developing serious complications from Covid-19, and “booster” doses are available for all individuals in accordance with the guidelines that follow. “Third doses” for eligible patients occur at least 4 weeks after completion of the original 2-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccine series.
“Booster” doses now encompass both a first booster and second booster, with eligibility dependent upon the timing of a person’s original vaccination dates. First boosters for Pfizer and Moderna are available five months after completion of the primary Pfizer or Moderna series to adults 18 or older, and first boosters of Pfizer alone are available to adolescents aged 12-17 five months after completion of their initial Pfizer series. Individuals 18 and older who received the Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine are eligible for a booster of any authorized vaccine two months after receiving their initial immunization.
Second dose boosters of the Pfizer and Moderna series are available to individuals who are at least 50 years old and received their first booster of any authorized vaccine at least four months prior. Second dose boosters of Pfizer are available to anyone 12 and older and Moderna to anyone 18 and older who has a weakened immune system who received their first booster of any authorized vaccine at least four months prior. As a primary care physician who may see a two-month-old patient followed by a 95-year-old patient and every age in between during a routine day in practice, it is my job to be well-versed on immunization recommendations and to be able to give individualized recommendations to my patients. For those who have questions, answers are available from local physicians and care providers, the Mississippi Covid-19 Hotline (877.978.6453), local health departments, and medical facilities and clinics are available. Information is also easily accessible online through The MS Way, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the CDC.