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With Covid-19 Cases Up, CDC Changes Pfizer Vaccine Recommendations

COVID-19 Update

Some Lexington parents getting their children tested for COVID-19 as school starts back up. (Image: WKYT).

Robert Moore
Herald Staff

As the number of new COVID-19 infections soars, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is updating their recommendation for when many people can receive a booster shot.

On Tuesday, the CDC shortened the interval from 6 months to 5 months for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. The announcement means that people can now receive an mRNA booster shot 5 months after completing their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series.

The booster interval recommendations for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (2 months) or the Moderna vaccine (6 months), has not changed.

The CDC is also recommending that moderately or severely immunocompromised children aged 5–11 years old receive an additional primary dose of vaccine 28 days after their second shot

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized and recommended for children aged 5-11.

That announcement comes as new cases of COVID-19, powered by the omicron variant, soar across Kentucky and the United States.

Gov. Andy Beshear said 6,441 cases were reported on Dec. 30, 2021, the highest ever in a single day. The previous highest number was 5,742 cases reported Jan. 6, 2021. The test positivity rate announced on Monday was 20.72 percent, which is also the highest ever.

According to Johns Hopkin University, over 1 million cases were reported Monday across the nation, which also set a record. The previous single-day record was approximately 591,000 cases, which was set last week Thursday.

During the week ending Jan. 2, Kentucky reported 29,955 new COVID-19 cases and an average positivity rate of 20.38 percent, which is approximately twice the number of cases as were reported the week before (15,255). According to the state, it’s also the second highest week of reported cases since the start of the pandemic, surpassed only by the week of Aug. 30, 2021, during the delta variant wave.

“The omicron variant is spreading rapidly. Omicron spreads so easily, it is compared to measles, the most contagious human virus on the planet,” said Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said Monday. “Hospitalization numbers are also increasing, though not yet as rapidly as cases, but health care resources are stretched very thin due to both the increased number of COVID patients in hospitals coupled with an even more strained health care workforce due to workers who are themselves out sick with COVID.”

Due to the volume of COVID-19 cases and the speed at which the omicron variant is spreading, individuals who test positive are asked to self-isolate, notify their close contacts and contact their health care provider if symptoms worsen or if they need to seek medical care.

Also worrying to public health official is that two of the three monoclonal antibodies FDA-authorized for COVID-19 in the United States are ineffective against the omicron variant. As such, new shipments of those antibodies to Kentucky ended Jan. 3. The third FDA-authorized monoclonal antibody is available nationwide in only very limited quantities. Unless supplies increase and/or new monoclonal antibodies effective against the omicron variant are released, supplies in Kentucky will be extremely limited, Dr. Stack said Monday.

The Merck antiviral pill became available in Kentucky for the first time Monday. Only 3,300 treatment courses were allocated to Kentucky, so supplies are very limited. There will be a new page on the website that shows where to find the drug at 10 initial Walgreens locations.

The Pfizer antiviral pill will arrive in Kentucky later this week, however, the supply is even more limited. Kentucky has only received 720 treatment courses. Because the supply is so small, it will be given to a small number of nursing home pharmacies and federally qualified health care centers in the early weeks to ensure it reaches some of the most vulnerable Kentuckians.

According to the state, 62 percent of all Kentuckians have received at least their first dose, as well as 66 percent of Kentuckians ages 5 and older and 74 percent of all Kentucky adults.

Locally, 20 new cases were announced Monday by the Mercer County Health Department, with three hospitalizations and 126 cases currently active. As of Monday, 38 people in Mercer County had died of COVID-19 since July 1, 2021.

According to the health department’s update on Monday, 55.4 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated.

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