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Jacksonville health officials say they have vaccine supply for COVID boosters, waiting on further guidance from regulatory agencies

Doctors are advising people to talk to their doctors before getting the booster shot.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Wednesday, President Joe Biden and top health officials announced COVID booster shots will soon be offered to Americans eight months after their second doses of Pfizer of Moderna.

Biden said the first shots will be given the week of Sept. 20. The plan still needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will most likely need another shot, health officials say, but they're waiting for more data. 

According to a spokesperson for the health department in Duval County, it has enough vaccines available for boosters and said they'll follow FDA guidelines. When asked about the city's booster shot rollout plan, a spokesperson for the City of Jacksonville said, "As we have done throughout the last year and a half, we stand ready to support the state in their efforts.”

A CVS spokesperson said they're waiting for further guidance from regulatory agencies as well. However, the spokesperson said, "we’re fully prepared to play a leading role in providing booster shots. We’ve administered more than 30 million COVID-19 vaccines across the country, and immediately began offering third doses to immunocompromised individuals when authorized to do so."

Publix said it is following current CDC guidance and giving boosters to those who are vulnerable. When asked further about the president's announcement Wednesday, Publix didn't respond by the time this article was published. 

Walmart issued the following statement when asked about boosters:

"Walmart pharmacies nationwide are administering COVID-19 vaccines to eligible Americans as we work to keep our communities safe and healthy. We continue to follow the latest vaccine guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and are currently only administering third doses to eligible immunocompromised individuals. Our pharmacists stand ready to administer booster shots to all eligible fully vaccinated Americans when approved by the CDC and FDA in the coming weeks."

Walmart's spokesperson wouldn't confirm if people have to make appointments, or if they'll have walk-in yet. Winn Dixie and Harvey's spokesperson issued the following statement:

"Southeastern Grocers is committed to the safe and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the communities we serve. In conjunction with the CDC, we are currently offering third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to customers who are moderately or severely immunocompromised by appointment or as a walk-up. Additionally, we are making preparations to offer the COVID-19 booster vaccines in all of our pharmacies upon receiving approval and implementation details from the CDC. We care passionately about the health and well-being of our communities and highly recommend those eligible get vaccinated promptly. Our pharmacies currently provide $10 in free groceries for each COVID-19 vaccine administered in our stores, including the booster vaccines."

FCN also reached out to the Florida Health Department and hadn't heard back by the time this article was published.

"It's good that the government is being supportive and making the vaccine available, including the booster," Dr. Michael Koren of the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research said. "I think that's fabulous, and they should be applauded for that, but you know, individual decision making is something that's a little bit different," he said.

Koren, who heads up an ongoing COVID booster shot study on the First Coast said he advises people to talk to their doctors before getting the booster shot.

"If you're super low risk, I'm not even sure if their dose is necessary. Having said that, we are doing the studies as we speak, looking at the exact science of it," he said.

The science in those studies, he said, will be available in a couple of months and will give a more definite answer on who needs boosters. Koren said as for now, two doses are pretty protective. 

"People should feel comfortable with that [two doses]. There are some breakthrough cases, no doubt, but most of the people who are hospitalized [overall], in fact, like 97 percent of people who are hospitalized, are unvaccinated people," he said.

"The concepts are that the antibody levels are going up very nicely when you add a third dose, and the thinking is because the vaccines are really, really safe that for some people, that extra protection of higher antibody levels is worth advocating the third dose," he said.

Friday, the CDC and the FDA approved boosters for those who are immunocompromised.

Several federal health officials said in a joint statement Wednesday that their latest assessments show the current protection from two doses of the vaccine could fade in the next few months. Therefore, they recommended boosters for everyone eight months after your second dose.

Koren said he thinks the surge in the delta variant has people on edge. 

“I think that it feels that the population is being protected further by taking another dose of the vaccine, but as I said, not everybody's at the same risk. So, I think that this is one of those things that should be graded based on each individual circumstance, rather than something that necessarily should be advocated for every single person," Koren said.

As far as whether or not we'll need a COVID booster shot every year, Koren said it's likely.

"Even if this Peters out next year, probably we will still be vaccinating people on a regular basis until we feel like it's completely gone, and it's down to baseline risk. So, I think the more likely scenario is that there will be periodic boosters," he said.

“I think also the more likely scenario is that the composition of those boosters will change based on the way the virus mutates. And that's what happens with the flu right now," Koren said.

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