Georgians begin lining up for COVID-19 booster shots, but many remain unvaccinated
DECATUR, Ga. - By lunchtime Monday, about 25 to 30 people had come through for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot at Viral Solutions' COVID-19 vaccination and testing site near Toco Hills in Decatur.
There were plenty of vaccines ready to go into arms.
The site's assistant manager for vaccinations, Cory Williams, urged people to check the date on their vaccination cards and make sure they were at least 6 months out from their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
"Please have your card," Williams says. "We can access your vaccination records through our system."
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You are eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose if you are 65 or older, are 18 or older and have an underlying medical condition that raises your risk of becoming severely ill from the virus, or if you live or work in a higher-risk setting.
Follow federal guidelines, Viral Solutions' employees are not asking booster recipients to show proof they were eligible to receive a third dose.
Instead, people are able to self-identify as being in an eligible group.
"So, right now the criteria is very wide," Williams says. "You can be a smoker, current or former. You can be someone with diabetes. You can be a healthcare worker. You can be someone who visits somewhere high risk, such as just simply working in a mall. And, then there's those who have underlying health conditions and that are immunocompromised."
Boosters are only cleared for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and the FDA and CDC are still waiting on additional effectiveness and data safety on the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines before making a decision on boosters for those vaccines.
Williams says there is some confusion about who qualifies for a third shot.
"Today I had to turn two individuals away," Williams says. "They arrived for their Moderna boosters, and, of course, Moderna hasn't been approved yet for the booster shots. The only approval we have is for immunocompromised. So, I did have to turn two people away for that."
Third doses of the Moderna vaccine are available for people who have a moderately to severely compromised immune system, such as some cancer patients and organ transplant recipients.
Those who are immunocompromised can received a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine beginning 28 days after their second dose.
A big challenge has been convincing Georgians to get the primary doses of the vaccines.
State health officials say 47% of Georgians are now fully vaccinated, but 46% have not received any shots, which is double the national average.
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