MADISON (WKOW) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has approved a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine for a large number of Americans. However, the agency did make a distinction between groups as part of its recommendation.
The CDC said adults 65 and older, people who live in long-term care facilities and those aged 50-64 with underlying health conditions should get the additional vaccine dose at least six months after their initial vaccine series.
"Those people who have breakthrough cases that then also become the people who end up in the hospital are often those who are elderly, who have comorbid conditions," UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof said. "There definitely is protection, there's real value in giving those folks a booster."
Two other groups of Americans are eligible for the additional shot, too.
People between18-64 with underlying health conditions and adults who are at an increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their jobs may get a booster shot, according to the CDC. The agency said people in those two groups should talk with their doctor about the individual benefits and risks another vaccine dose could have.
Pothof said he's glad he and his colleagues in health care will be able to have another layer of protection against the virus.
"I can't tell you the number of times I've worked a shift in the emergency department and there's someone with, like, appendicitis who all of a sudden tests positive for COVID," he said. "If we get those booster doses, that decreases the chance that we have those breakthrough cases."
Around 20 million Americans are eligible for a booster shot under the new recommendations, but SSM Health's Mo Kharbat said he's not expecting long wait times for appointments or vaccine shortages like we saw earlier this year.
"Unlike back in the spring, we have many more vaccination clinics, and also the vaccine itself is available in quantities that were not available back in the spring," he said.
Kharbat and Pothof each said their health systems are not yet administering booster shots to the newest eligible groups because they're waiting for Wisconsin's Department of Health Services to greenlight the additional doses.
"They will have more details," Kharbat said. "For example, what do patients need to show as proof that they have an underlying condition or that they work in a in a profession that puts them at risk for COVID?"
Pothof said since the CDC has publicized a lot of information about why it authorized the shots, he doesn't think it will take long for DHS to say give the okay, too.
"Because they've had so much transparency into the process, I think that can make their turnaround pretty quick," he said.
He said he expects Wisconsin vaccinators to start administering booster shots next week. Both Pothof and Kharbat said their health systems will be ready to give shots as soon DHS issues its guidance.
Right now, only people who have received two doses of Pfizer's vaccine can get a booster shot. Kharbat said he expects Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to submit data on their booster shots in the coming weeks.