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3rd COVID Vaccine Dose Available For Immunocompromised in Louisiana: How To Get It, What To Know

A healthcare professional administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
Phoebe Jones/ WWNO
A healthcare professional administers a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.

People undergoing cancer treatment or recovering from an organ transplant are among those likely to be eligible for an additional shot of a COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana.

Third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines are being offered to people with moderate or severely compromised immune systems who are considered to be more at risk of serious, prolonged illness, the Louisiana Department of Health announced on Saturday. Some third doses have already been given out in the state.

The move follows new recommendations issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates about 3 percent of the U.S. population is eligible for the extra dose.

Studies suggest those with compromised immune systems are both less protected by the vaccines and more likely to be hospitalized with a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

“A large proportion of our hospitalized breakthrough cases have been in those that are immunocompromised,” said Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, the medical director of infection control and prevention at Ochsner Health, on a press call with reporters.

Third doses for all Americans could be on the horizon within the next month. According to national news reports, the Biden Administration could announce a plan to offer third shots to all people fully vaccinated with mRNA vaccines in order to combat the highly contagious delta variant.

People who are fully vaccinated remain a fraction of those getting sick with COVID-19 amid the unprecedented and escalating fourth wave of the pandemic in Louisiana. They account for only 10 percent of people hospitalized or testing positive for COVID-19 and 17 percent of those dying.

Here’s what you need to know about how to get a third dose.

Who Can Get The Shot

The shots are available for people with severely compromised immune systems, such as those taking medicines to suppress the immune system after an organ or stem cell transplant, those receiving active treatment for cancer, people with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency or people with an advanced or untreated HIV infection.

The health department recommends people check with their doctor to see whether they should receive the extra shot.

Those 12 and older can get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine; people 18 and above can get a third dose of the Moderna vaccine.

These immunizations are called “additional” rather than “booster” shots because they target people who likely mounted a less robust immune response to the standard vaccine regime, said Baumgarten. Booster shots are designed for people with normal immune responses that may have waned over time.

When And How You Can Get A Third Dose

The third shot is administered at least 28 days after the second dose of an mRNA vaccine, and people can get it anywhere that vaccinations are being offered.

The Louisiana Department of health advises people not to mix and match vaccines. People who received two shots of the Moderna vaccine, for example, should get a third Moderna dose.

The health department has released a form that people must fill out and sign explaining why they qualify for a third shot. It gives a detailed list of what medical conditions make someone eligible, and people need to bring the form to their immunization appointment.

The department runs a hotline people can call to find out where to get vaccinated: 1-855-453-0774.

Additional doses are currently not available for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The health department said there’s currently not enough data to determine whether an extra shot of Johnson & Johnson would improve the antibody response, though federal authorities are investigating the possibility.

What To Know About Safety And Side Effects

Side effects for third doses appear to be the same as symptoms for previous shots of the COVID-19 vaccines, said Baumgarten. People might have arm pain, fatigue or a low grade fever.

But there’s limited data on the risks of third doses.

“We are going to have to continue to monitor this and see what happens because there is not as much information with this third dose and what sort of side effects may occur,” Baumgarten said.

Rosemary Westwood is the public and reproductive health reporter for WWNO/WRKF. She was previously a freelance writer specializing in gender and reproductive rights, a radio producer, columnist, magazine writer and podcast host.

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