Moderna vaccine

Pictured is a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 booster shots of the Moderna vaccine are now available in Louisiana to certain high-risk adults, in accordance with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Louisiana Department of Health made the announcement Friday, expanding the availability of booster shots in Louisiana. The FDA and CDC approved booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in late September, a decision the Department of Health promptly followed.

In addition, a COVID-19 booster is recommended for everyone 18 years old and older who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.

The new guidance is “effective immediately,” and providers may begin administering booster shots as soon as they are able to operationalize the guidance, according to LDH. Officials also asked residents to first check with their local provider before showing up for a booster appointment.

Health officials also said providers may accept verbal self-representation of eligible patients and “do not need additional proof of verification.”

“We welcome and adopt the new guidance from CDC that makes COVID-19 vaccine booster shots available to many more Louisianans at high risk of COVID-19 exposure and severe outcomes,” said State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter in a statement.

“That said, we know we will not boost our way out of this pandemic. Everyday more people decide to go sleeves up, but too many Louisianans remain unvaccinated, leaving themselves and their loved ones vulnerable as we go into the holiday season.”

Health experts say booster shots provide additional protection against COVID-19 and strengthen protection against severe disease in high-risk populations.

For individuals who received the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at least six months after their initial series:

-- Age 65 or older

-- Age 18 or older and have one of many underlying medical conditions that may increase their risk for a severe COVID infection

-- Age 18 or older and live or work in a setting that places them at risk of being exposed to COVID, including long-term care settings

Patients who are unsure of their eligibility or who have questions should talk with their healthcare provider.

According to the Department of Health, eligible people “may choose which vaccine they receive as a booster dose.”

“Some people may have a preference for the vaccine type that they originally received and others may prefer to get a different booster,” the LDH statement said. “CDC’s recommendations now allow for this type of mix and match dosing for booster shots.”

Though Kanter and other state health leaders have lauded the effectiveness of booster shots, they are still urging more people to get vaccinated in the first place, especially as vaccinations statewide have declined in recent weeks.

As of the latest data, Louisiana is reporting that roughly 2.18 million residents have completed a vaccine series, just under 47 percent of the state’s population, while 2.44 million people have at least started one, or 52.6 percent.

Both percentages greatly trail the national averages of 57 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

To date, more than 4.4 million vaccine doses have been administered in Louisiana.

The state has made incentives available to urge more vaccinations, most notably the “Shot for 100” campaign that is open through the end of October. or while supplies last. Through the campaign, can receive a $100 gift card for getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The campaign initially targeted college students but was expanded to all those eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month.

“Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and reduce the spread of the virus and help prevent new variants from emerging,” the LDH statement said.

Those with questions about whether a COVID-19 vaccine booster is right for them are urged to speak with a medical professional. For additional help, people can contact Louisiana’s COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774.

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