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Amid third-dose rollout, infectious disease specialist emphasizes importance of getting more initial COVID-19 vaccinations

Amid third-dose rollout, infectious disease specialist emphasizes importance of getting more initial COVID-19 vaccinations

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Supply isn’t an issue as the COVID-19 booster dose program rolls out. Persuading more people to get their first dose is.

Dr. David Chansolme, with Infectious Disease Consultants of Oklahoma City, said Thursday that it’s important to know that vaccination is the safest way through the pandemic, not relying solely on natural immunity from previous infection.

Chansolme said it’s premature to know whether it will be recommended at some point that all vaccinated individuals get a third dose. But there isn’t a supply shortage, and he urges everyone who is eligible to get an initial or booster dose.

“Personally, as a vaccine provider, I’m still trying so hard to get the first shot in people,” he said. “I’m a little less worried about the third.”

Chansolme spoke during the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s weekly COVID-19 briefing with reporters. He noted that many studies have shown that individuals who get vaccinated after being infected with the disease have “very, very robust” immune responses.

State and federal data support his concern about focusing on new vaccinations.

Prime — or initial — dose vaccinations in Oklahoma declined for the fourth consecutive week, according to the latest state data published Wednesday. A two-month rise in initial vaccinations coincided with the delta variant’s surge.

Oklahoma ranks No. 40 in the U.S. for percent of its population that is fully vaccinated, at 47.5%. That’s almost 1.9 million Oklahomans out of roughly 4 million. The U.S. as a whole is at 55.9%, or 185.5 million Americans.

Pfizer’s FDA-authorized vaccine last week was the first to be granted emergency use by the CDC for a third dose in certain individuals who have already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine:

Ages 65 and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a third dose;

Ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions should receive a third dose;

Ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a third dose;

Ages 18 to 64 who are at an increased risk of exposure because of occupational or institutional settings may receive a third dose.

Chansolme said approval of booster doses doesn’t mean the vaccine doesn’t work or isn’t protective; it’s adding an additional layer of protection.

He said verification of a high-risk job or environment isn’t necessary. As a general guide, he suggested that individuals who fell into one of the state’s first three tiers of vaccine eligibility during the initial rollout might qualify.

“Discuss it with your physician, particularly if you’re kind of in a marginal category, and see whether or not you’re eligible for it,” Chansolme said.

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Staff Writer

I am a general assignment reporter who predominately writes about public health, public safety and justice reform. I'm in journalism to help make this community, state, country and, ultimately, world a better place.

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