COVID vaccine booster shots coming to Carbondale

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Booster shots for a COVID-19 vaccine have been receiving mixed reactions from medical professionals.

According to the Jackson County Health Department (JCHD), the Pfizer booster shot is now available and most recommended for  people 65 and older, people 18 and older in long-term care and people with underlying health conditions.

The Health Department still encourages essential workers of the pandemic and people with underlying health conditions ages 18 to 49 to get the booster.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who are eligible for the Pfizer booster should get it no sooner than six months after their  last shot, or they  will be turned away. 

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are currently not available in Jackson County according to the health department.

Dr. Vidya Sundareshan , professor at SIU’s School of Medicine and Medical Advisor for the Simon County Health Department, said the booster seems  to  work best in the immunosuppressed and with certain surgical procedures.

“The data looks pretty good, especially in people who have had transplants [and] the immunosuppressed,” Sundareshan said. “So with regards to boosters, the immunosuppressed population getting boosters is absolutely justified.”

Sundareshan said there’s still more data to be collected with regards to supporting the booster shots fully.

“We still need to have more data on the effect of this booster shot, on transmission and acquisition of the virus,”  she said. “So I think that’s where we (professionals)  were really looking for more information to be able to support it wholeheartedly.”

Sundareshan said she isn’t fully satisfied with some of the data being collected by certain organizations, or  how fast the decision-making process is.

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Dr. Jeff Ripperda, a family physcian at Shawnee Health Care, said that perscribing medicine is usually a black and white issue, medication will either help or it won’t, and booster shots are in more of a gray area.

“I think that the booster shots are very unlikely to do any harm,” said Ripperda. “I’m just not entirely convinced that there is a worthwhile upside.”

Ripperda said the right way to study medication is through a placebo study where researchers  give a group of volunteers the medication or placebo randomly and compare the different group’s results.

“For the first round of vaccines for Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, that’s exactly how the studies were done by the drug companies, and were done really well,” said Ripperda. “But, for the booster shot, the country of Israel looked at some data that they were getting, and kind of decided, really, without studying it, that maybe these will do some good.”

Ripperda said, since COVID-19 has been the center of the world’s attention, he’s willing to accept evidence that he wouldn’t accept in other circumstances, even if he isn’t fully comfortable with it.

“I can imagine for the research saying that yeah, we do need a booster every so often,” Ripperda said. “I can also imagine the research saying that this first round of vaccines worked really well.”

Information regarding booster shots in Jackson County can be found on the Jackson County Health Department website.

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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