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Some Americans getting COVID booster shots despite no FDA approval

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, Dr. Yomaris Pena, Internal Medicine Physician with Somos Community Care at a COVID-19 extracts the last bit of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine out of a vial so as not to waste it at a vaccination site at the Cors
FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2021, file photo, Dr. Yomaris Pena, Internal Medicine Physician with Somos Community Care at a COVID-19 extracts the last bit of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine out of a vial so as not to waste it at a vaccination site at the Cors

'I’m going to follow these experts and I’m going to go protect myself.'

Posted: Aug 7, 2021 9:52 AM

DENVER (AP) — When the delta variant started spreading, Gina Welch decided not to take any chances: She got a third, booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by going to a clinic and telling them it was her first shot.

The U.S. government has not approved booster shots against the virus, saying it has yet to see evidence they are necessary. But Welch and an untold number of other Americans have managed to get them by taking advantage of the nation’s vaccine surplus and loose tracking of those who have been fully vaccinated.

Welch, a graduate student from Maine who is studying chemical engineering, said she has kept tabs on scientific studies about COVID-19 and follows several virologists and epidemiologists on social media who have advocated for boosters.

“I’m going to follow these experts and I’m going to go protect myself,” said Welch, a 26-year-old with asthma and a liver condition. “I’m not going to wait another six months to a year for them to recommend a third dose.”

While Pfizer has said it plans to seek U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for booster shots, health authorities say that for now, the fully vaccinated seem well protected.

Yet health care providers in the U.S. have reported more than 900 instances of people getting a third dose of COVID-19 vaccines in a database run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an Associated Press review of the system’s data found. Because reporting is voluntary, the full extent of people who have received third doses is unknown. It’s also unknown if all of those people were actively trying to get a third dose as a booster.

"I don’t think that anyone really has the tracking” in place to know how widespread it is, said Claire Hannan, executive director for the Association of Immunization Managers.

One entry in the CDC database shows a 52-year-old man got a third dose from a California pharmacy on July 14 by saying he had never received one and by providing his passport, rather than a driver's license, as identification. But when the pharmacy contacted the patient’s insurance provider, it was told he had received two doses in March.

In Virginia, a 39-year-old man got a third shot from a military provider on April 27 after he showed a vaccine card indicating he had received only one dose. A review of records turned up his previous vaccines. The patient then told the provider that the time between his first and second doses was more than 21 days, “so they spoke to their provider, who ‘authorized’ them to get a third shot,” an entry states.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said at a recent news briefing that he knew of residents who had received third dose by using fake names, but neither his office nor the state health department could provide any evidence.

Despite a lack of FDA approval, public health officials in San Francisco said Tuesday that they will provide an extra dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for people who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson variety — referring to it as a supplement, rather than a booster.

Several studies are looking at booster shots for certain at-risk groups — people with weakened immune systems, adults over 60 years old and health care workers. But the verdict is still out on whether the general population might need them, said Dr. Michelle Barron, senior medical director for infection prevention at UCHealth, a not-for-profit health care system based in Aurora, Colorado. She said the best data in favor of possible boosters is for people whose immune systems are compromised.

Israel is giving boosters to older adults and several countries, including Germany, Russia and the U.K. have approved them for some people. The head of the World Health Organization recently urged wealthier nations to stop administering boosters to ensure vaccine doses are available to other countries where few people have received their first shots.

Will Clart, a 67-year-old patient services employee at a Missouri hospital, got a third dose in May by going to a local pharmacy. Clart said he gave the pharmacist all of his information, but that the pharmacist didn't realize until after administering the shot that Clart’s name was in the vaccine system.

“It sounded like there was a benefit to it. And there’s also been talk that eventually we’ll need a booster — mine was five or six months out and so I thought well I’ll go ahead, that’ll give me a booster,” Clart said.

Ted Rall, a political cartoonist, explained in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he got a booster because of a history of lung problems, including asthma, swine flu, and repeated bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia.

“I made up my mind after reading a report that states were likely to toss 26.2 million unused doses due to low demand. My decision had no effect on policy, and I saved a vaccine dose from the garbage,” Rall said.

Welch, the graduate student from Maine, put the blame on people who have refused to get the vaccine for political reasons. About 60% of eligible people in the U.S. are fully vaccinated.

“Their absolute demand and screeches for freedom is trampling our public health and our communal health."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 915942

Reported Deaths: 9606
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1786832038
Ramsey739711046
Dakota67683587
Anoka64112577
Washington40545359
Stearns33631279
St. Louis29591409
Scott25994186
Wright25957217
Olmsted22339130
Sherburne19000127
Carver1670669
Clay12104105
Blue Earth1147970
Rice11451138
Crow Wing11213123
Chisago995379
Kandiyohi9815108
Otter Tail9813127
Benton9033125
Beltrami816997
Goodhue811798
Douglas7875101
Itasca772299
Mower733449
McLeod713084
Winona710258
Isanti700783
Steele685731
Morrison672879
Becker628574
Polk603187
Freeborn561246
Carlton546974
Mille Lacs532479
Lyon528461
Nobles525054
Nicollet522460
Pine515043
Cass501253
Todd492843
Brown470759
Le Sueur459734
Meeker433458
Martin386544
Wabasha375510
Waseca374333
Dodge361112
Hubbard355249
Roseau316231
Fillmore305315
Wadena302940
Redwood281445
Houston272017
Renville268451
Faribault258233
Sibley252317
Pennington252130
Kanabec250136
Cottonwood230132
Aitkin222450
Chippewa220542
Pope207410
Watonwan198020
Yellow Medicine188023
Rock177729
Koochiching176725
Swift173123
Stevens167511
Jackson161016
Clearwater158020
Marshall153522
Murray151811
Pipestone149729
Lake132924
Lac qui Parle123025
Wilkin121116
Mahnomen106014
Norman10509
Grant101510
Big Stone9485
Lincoln8805
Kittson73223
Red Lake71410
Traverse6056
Unassigned545124
Lake of the Woods5265
Cook3071

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 525758

Reported Deaths: 7379
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk81677809
Linn32838430
Scott27126295
Black Hawk22334382
Woodbury20736263
Johnson20150108
Dubuque18996243
Pottawattamie16215214
Dallas15573115
Story1398059
Warren8637107
Cerro Gordo8141125
Clinton7928115
Webster7419124
Des Moines7153106
Marshall675494
Muscatine6717117
Wapello6546145
Jasper630591
Sioux622477
Lee5977106
Marion567697
Buena Vista503449
Plymouth493388
Henry427155
Benton414760
Jones413564
Bremer403873
Boone397042
Washington395464
Carroll373355
Mahaska372366
Crawford355647
Jackson324047
Dickinson317555
Buchanan312743
Delaware303255
Clay297636
Kossuth293477
Fayette290356
Hardin289253
Tama282878
Page276133
Wright270050
Cedar269527
Winneshiek267744
Hamilton262757
Floyd261049
Clayton252360
Poweshiek242043
Harrison240979
Madison237425
Butler237346
Cass235667
Iowa234336
Jefferson228544
Mills225330
Hancock222840
Winnebago222339
Cherokee217347
Appanoose210157
Lyon209842
Allamakee209456
Calhoun199519
Shelby199542
Union197141
Humboldt188231
Franklin188031
Grundy186137
Chickasaw184522
Mitchell184343
Emmet180146
Louisa178653
Sac175626
Guthrie169338
Clarke163629
Montgomery163146
Keokuk152639
Palo Alto152332
Howard150624
Monroe144340
Ida134141
Greene128818
Davis126825
Lucas126127
Monona124940
Worth12309
Pocahontas122125
Adair118239
Osceola105718
Decatur104813
Taylor100914
Fremont98913
Van Buren95922
Wayne86125
Ringgold78429
Audubon77617
Adams5869
Unassigned500
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