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Some Tri-County residents now can get COVID-19 booster shots. Health officials ask others to be patient

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Joe Deacon
Doctor Denise Francisco, an infectious disease physician with OSF Health Care, speaks during Thursday's weekly Tri-County COVID-19 briefing at the Noble Center in Peoria.
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Tri-County health departments and pharmacies have started administering booster COVID-19 vaccine doses. But not everyone can get them yet.

“It's important to note that as of now, only patients who have received the Pfizer vaccine are eligible for the booster shots,” said Dr. Denise Francisco, an infectious disease physician at OSF St. Francis Medical Center and an assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine-Peoria.

That means people who got Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots must wait for the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to process data, authorize approval, and issue recommendations on who should get those boosters and when.

“Patience is key,” Peoria City/County Health Department Administrator Monica Hendrickson said during Thursday’s weekly COVID-19 health briefing. “The science keeps coming, the data keeps growing, and so we'll know more as this goes through.”

Among those currently eligible for Pfizer booster shots are anyone over age 65, as long as at least six months have passed since getting the second dose. Additionally, people over 18 who have underlying health conditions and those who live or work in long-term care facilities can receive the boosters.

“Also included would be health care workers or first responders, and people who are working in schools or the education staff, all the way down to even grocery store workers, public transit workers, and postal service workers,” said Francisco. “So anyone who is in higher risk settings.”

Francisco said the health conditions that qualify an individual for a booster shot include chronic kidney or lung diseases, asthma, diabetes, and even a history of smoking. She noted a distinction between those booster-eligible conditions and people with compromised immune systems, who have always been approved for third doses.

“Immunocompromised means patients who either have, number one, any transplants – either solid organ or stem cell transplants – where their immune system is low,” she said. “Also anyone who has cancers or malignancies that could affect your immune system, and HIV patients who are not controlled and have low immune systems.”

Hendrickson said among Peoria County’s vaccinated over-65 population, about half got Pfizer shots and half got Moderna.

“I think it's really key to recognize the fact that just because Pfizer came out with a booster does not mean necessarily that Moderna is going to be needing the same exact timeline or process that Pfizer did,” she said. “(If) you got Moderna … it doesn't mean that you might not be needing the booster later on, but also it doesn't mean that your Moderna was less effective than a Pfizer.

“Because they both are mRNA vaccines, it is a pretty strong indication that you're going to need a booster of Moderna, whether it's (after) eight months because Moderna has been shown to have a little bit of a longer time range than Pfizer. It might be, but again, we're all waiting for that data to come out.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.