While federal officials continue debating who should receive COVID booster shots, Oklahoma health officials say they are ready to give them as soon as the green light is given.
An FDA advisory panel last week recommended third Pfizer shots for Americans 65 and up, six months after their second doses, but it was overwhelmingly against boosters for younger people because of a lack of data indicating a strong benefit. The same panel may also recommend the boosters for people at higher risk of infection because of their jobs, like health care providers and teachers.
Tulsa Health Department Executive Director Dr. Bruce Dart said they are just awaiting guidance from the CDC and FDA at this point.
"More information will be provided on our website and social media as it comes in. The Tulsa Health Department and, again, nearly 350 pandemic providers, are prepared to begin administering booster doses if that is the recommendation from the CDC," Dart said.
The state health department says it has 500,000 doses of vaccine on hand and is prepared to set up mass vaccination sites again if needed. Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gitanjali Pai said the debate about boosters doesn’t mean vaccines are not effective.
"It just means that health professionals have determined that an additional layer of protection might be able to be provided by getting a booster dose. No vaccine is 100% effective. By layering mitigation methods, including booster doses and other methods like the three W’s, we can create a more comprehensive public health approach that effectively slows the spread of COVID and prevents serious symptoms," Pai said.
Pai said just 10% of deaths among Oklahoma 75- to 84-year-olds have come since vaccines became available to them.
Booster shots for immunocompromised people are already available. That includes people with conditions causing weakened or absent immune systems, certain cancer patients, and organ and stem cell transplant recipients.