• The San Juan Daily Star

Health chief: 3rd dose of Pfizer vaccine available for eligibles


The island Health Department is prepared to administer a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to eligible patients who completed the two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine and who are over 65, residents and employees of long-term care centers, health professionals, teachers, people from 18 to 64 years old with chronic diseases and those with a higher risk of exposure due to a work environment or institution.

By John McPhaul

jpmcphaul@gmail.com


Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López announced over the weekend that the agency is ready to administer the third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for COVID-19 to patients over 65, residents and employees of long-term care centers, health professionals, teachers, people from 18 to 64 years old with chronic diseases and those with a higher risk of exposure due to a work environment or institution.


Only those eligible vaccine recipients who completed the full course of the Pfizer vaccine qualify to receive the third, or booster, shot from the same manufacturer.


The occupational risks category includes health professionals, teachers, care center employees and grocery store workers. Institutional risk, meanwhile, includes those who are homeless or incarcerated.


“We are going to continue the vaccination rate as before,” Mellado López said. “We all need to get vaccinated to have the best coverage against the virus at the community level. It is important to remember that people who are authorized and vaccinated with Pfizer do not need to rush to their supplier. This process must be staggered and structured as we have been doing since we began the inoculation process in Puerto Rico.”


The health chief emphasized that patients must wait six months after completing the vaccine series before receiving the booster dose.


Puerto Rico has more than 900 providers of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the distribution plan continues apace, Mellado López said, so that people will have the opportunity to visit their closest or most convenient vaccination center. However, it is recommended that the person who is already eligible to receive the booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine contact the provider where they plan to be vaccinated to validate if they require an appointment and have the vaccine they need available, he noted. They must also present their vaccination card.


The health secretary specified that within the group of 900 providers are those who receive vaccines directly from the Health Department and pharmacies that are part of the Retail Pharmacy Program. People can visit any of the shopping centers that have vaccination clinics, medical offices, hospitals, Diagnostic and Treatment Centers, health care centers, health clinics, community or chain pharmacies, among other providers.


“We remain focused on vaccinating those who don’t have the first dose or second dose,” Mellado López said. “The booster doses are important to control the SARS-coV-2 virus. We must not lower our guard and all those who have not been vaccinated must protect themselves against the virus. We want them vaccinated and protected. Vaccines have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death. However, COVID-19 is constantly evolving and experts are analyzing all available data to increase protection. This booster dose will help in this population group to reduce the risk of death or serious illness, increase antibodies, and reinforce and prolong the protection provided by the immune system to each person. It is additional management to safeguard and protect people in the coming months. That is why the exercise of reinforcing protection is necessary.”


The secretary added that during the period from Aug. 16 to Sept. 16, 25,198 doses of vaccines directed at third doses for immunosuppressed patients were distributed.


Committee members wait for additional data before extending approval to the rest of the population. People who received the Moderna or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine will likely need a booster dose, but this will be determined once the data supports it and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommend it.