Following a Food and Drug Administration authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot last Friday to populations particularly susceptible to COVID-19, according to a press release from the City of Goleta. 

A vial containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, one vaccine being offered in Santa Barbara County. Courtesy of the Department of Defense

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) says people 65 years or older and people 50-64 years old with underlying medical conditions should receive the booster. These individuals are eligible for a booster five months after the date they received their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. People aged 18-49 with underlying medical conditions and people aged 18-64 who are prevalently exposed to COVID-19 in either an institutional or occupational setting may receive the booster dose at least six months after the date of their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Booster shots are offered at local pharmacies and health care providers in Santa Barbara County. 

These guidelines do not apply to those who received the Moderna or Janssen (J&J) vaccine. As of Sept. 28, a booster shot of either vaccine is not yet available. According to the CDC, as more data becomes available, additional populations will be recommended for the booster shot. 

“Booster shots will become an important part of our local strategy to protect our most vulnerable community members and end the pandemic,” SB County Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said in a press release last Friday.

SBCPHD says that vaccines approved and administered in the U.S. remain extremely effective. However, the booster shot is meant for those whose post-inoculation protection against COVID-19 has waned over time. The booster shot maximizes that protection, with the intention of making it more long-lasting. CDC studies show that vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection is decreasing, partially due to waning immunity as well as the evolution of COVID-19, particularly the severity of the Delta variant. 

The approved distribution of booster shots to immunocompromised and at-risk individuals in the U.S. follows a worldwide moratorium on boosters called by the World Health Organization (WHO). At a media briefing earlier this month, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the push for boosters an inequitable distribution of resources that could help end the pandemic. 

“Globally, 5.5 billion vaccine doses have now been administered, but 80 percent have been administered in high- and upper-middle income countries,” Ghebreyesus said. “High-income countries have promised to donate more than 1 billion doses, but less than 15 percent of those doses have materialised.”