COVID boosters advised for vulnerable

CASPER — The Wyoming Department of Health is following guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in promoting an additional COVID-19 booster shot to certain populations at an increased risk amid the rise of the more contagious and likely more dangerous delta variant. 

“National experts are seeing that people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are more at risk of serious, prolonged illness,” State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist said in a release Tuesday. “An additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines can help these people make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19.” 

Those who qualify for an additional dose include those receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood; have received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system; have received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system; those with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome); those with advanced or untreated HIV infection; and those with active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress immune response, according to the health department. 

The general public has not yet been approved to receive an additional vaccine dose. 

The FDA authorized booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines Aug. 12 for immunocompromised individuals. 

Several national outlets have reported in recent days that federal officials plan to authorize boosters for the entire public that are meant to be taken eight months after being fully vaccinated. 

The decisions come after the World Health Organization asked the United States to forgo authorizing boosters until vaccines were more available globally. 

Wyomingites thus far have been slow to accept even initial vaccine doses. The state lags behind the nation for both uptake of first doses and for the proportion of fully vaccinated residents. 

Wyoming ranks second and third last in those categories, respectively, though uptake has increased slightly in recent weeks. 

The state health department reports just under 95 percent of those recently hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. There were 112 people hospitalized with the virus statewide Monday.