California, Colorado, and Noms Expand Enhanced Virus Access
Sacramento, California. California is among three US states to now allow injections of coronavirus booster doses for all adults, although federal health officials recommend limiting doses to those considered most at risk.
The country’s most populous state, along with Colorado and New Mexico, have set up their policies to try to avoid a frightening increase in the year-end holidays when more people gather indoors.
Colorado and New Mexico have among the highest rates of new infections in the country, while California — the lowest in the country earlier this fall — now joins them at the “high” level of transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Logan Grisham signed an executive order Friday to expand eligibility for enhanced COVID-19 shots. The rising case numbers have left some hospitals in New Mexico overwhelmed, Acting State Department of Health Secretary of Health Dr. David Scriss said.
“COVID-19 is incredibly opportunistic and it is our duty to ensure that the virus has fewer chances of spreading,” Scrise said. “If it is time for a booster dose, please do so immediately.”
President Joe Biden’s administration sought approval for the boosters for all adults, but FDA advisers in September decided it wasn’t clear that healthy young adults would need another dose. Instead, they recommended the use of boosters only for those over 65 and younger with some underlying health conditions or whose jobs are at high risk of contracting the virus.
In California, the state’s public health official, Thomas Aragon, sent a letter to local health care officials and providers saying they should “allow patients to determine their exposure risk for themselves.”
“Do not refuse a patient who requests a booster,” he wrote, if they are 18 or older, and it’s been six months since they got their second Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or two months since the J&J single vaccine.
Tell pharmacies to prioritize boosters for those who work in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities because of weakened immunity from previous shots. But in general, providers “must miss no opportunity” to give vaccines to non-vaccinators or boosters to anyone else any time they visit a drug store, hospital, or medical office.
Many states are now seeing a rise in cases and more hospitalizations. Nationwide in the past week, there were about 73,000 new cases per day, roughly 10,000 from three weeks ago.
In Colorado, where some hospitals have stretched to breaking point, Governor Jared Polis signed an executive order Thursday to expand the use of booster shots. One day later, he received a dire warning for the roughly 20% of eligible people in his state who had not yet received a single dose.
“We won’t be here until we talk about this if everyone is vaccinated,” the Democratic governor said at a news conference. “If you are not vaccinated, you will get COVID. Maybe this year, maybe next year.”
Officials in Colorado, California and New Mexico said they have an ample supply of vaccines to make primary vaccines and boosters available to everyone who wants them.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the Biden administration continues to advise health leaders across the country to “adhere to public health guidelines issued by the federal government.”
California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said earlier in the week that California’s decision does not conflict with federal guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was “very clear that they have two categories — groups that should get a booster dose and groups that can.” He said.
“We know that a number of Californians work in crowded public spaces,” Ghaly said. “Because of the risks related to your work or even that you live with people with underlying conditions (and) who themselves are at greater risk, or you are a member of a community that has been crushed and severely affected by COVID … by the CDC and FDA to go ahead and get the booster.”
Boosters have been delayed, said Dr. Kirsten Pepins Domingo, professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco. This is worrisome as winter approaches and the spread of the highly contagious delta type, which has caused summertime high, continues.
The delta variant, she said, is “really good at finding people, including people who were vaccinated at the beginning of the year and now that I’m taking the vaccine a bit fades.” “Delta is a powerful force and everyone needs that third potion.”
Associated Press writers Jim Anderson in Denver, Susan Montoya in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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