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Answering your Pfizer booster questions

A White House COVID-19 advisor explains who can get the shot, when, and why

ST. LOUIS — The CDC has now authorized booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine for certain people who've received the Pfizer shot.

Adults with medical conditions considered "high risk" for severe COVID-19 and those age 65 or older should get an additional dose of Pfizer six months after their initial vaccinations, the CDC announced Friday. They also made way for adults working or living in high risk settings to get additional Pfizer doses. 

This comes after high-profile debate over whether health officials should approve these booster shots, as research continues to show the vaccine's efficacy against severe COVID for most healthy people, but in the face of dangerous variants.

5 On Your Side conducted a brief interview Friday afternoon with Dr. Cameron Webb, a COVID-19 advisor to the White House, and asked your questions about the news.

RELATED: US booster shots start, even as millions remain unprotected

When can people begin accessing these additional shots? – Tara, St. Charles

Webb: If you're one of those if you're in one of those groups that is going to require or we're going to recommend boosters, you can get those started as soon as possible.

Do you have to bring anything with you, or can you just go and say I’m eligible and I need this additional shot? – KSDK Viewer

Webb: Nothing more than what you would usually bring to a pharmacy. It’s self-attestation, so you don't have to bring proof that you’re in one of those professions where you're at increased risk, you don't have to bring proof that you have a chronic medical condition. It’s really just a matter of saying ‘here's why I need a booster,’ and they'll get you taken care of.

Does this tell us anything about how often boosters will be recommended, should we expect to have to get these every six months from here on out? Is this part of the new normal kind of like a flu shot? – Diane, St. Louis County

Webb: That's a great question you know, the first thing I'll say is we don't know for certain, but we do know that with some other vaccines oftentimes they are three shots series and so part of what we're looking to see, and in some ways, hoping to see is, that it's really the third shot is what creates a full series for you and that's what will provide that lasting protection.

Why do we talk about age as a factor for who needs the shot, as opposed to weight like other medications? – Melissa, St. Louis City

Webb: Well, you know, Melissa what I would say is that weight is one of them right, and so there were a couple of different categories of folks where we said ‘hey these boosters may be important, maybe valuable based on our understanding of the science.’ And so age was one because we do see over the age of 65 there's an increased risk of severe COVID outcomes, but beyond that folks who have chronic medical conditions which includes obesity, are also at increased risk for severe COVID outcomes. And what Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky outlined is if you're over the age of 18 and you have chronic medical conditions like diabetes like heart disease, like obesity, you qualify as someone where boosters could be really helpful to you. I think that's one of the starting points: we just have to make sure that people know that they are recommended to get a booster if they're more than six months out from their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and you know definitely take that step to protect yourself.

Initially an advisory panel didn’t recommend people whose jobs are “high risk situations” be eligible for third doses, while the White House has pushed for vaccines to be available to everyone. By offering shots to people based on workplace or environmental risk factors, is that merely the first step before we see these additional shots available to everyone age 16 and up? – KSDK Viewer

Webb: It’s really all about understanding who has risk, and for folks in certain settings -- you know, we talk about health care workers, teachers, folks where they’re interfacing with more people from different places who could make them interact with COVID. We want to make sure they had that additional protection to stay safe. Also for folks who live in certain settings, so folks who are currently living in prisons and jails, folks who are in other congregate living settings where there's more of a likelihood of coming into contact with COVID. We want to make sure they're protected as well, and those essential workers those frontline workers, who are also interfacing with large slots of the community. And so we want to make sure that those groups are protected, especially with this delta variant because of how transmissible it is and because of how far and how fast it spreads. The reason for that recommendation. You know it's not that this was a Trojan horse to get it so that everybody can get access to the boosters. We just want to make sure that everybody we're recommending boosters for, there’s a scientific basis for that recommendation and we've got I think we have a pretty solid one for all three of those groups.

What about those who got Johnson and Johnson or Moderna? – Jennifer, St. Louis County

Webb : We’re hoping that this is going to play out in a matter of weeks with the FDA and we’re hoping we’re able to bring more news about the next step for boosters for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson but that's top of mind. It's a top priority, want to make sure we get that information out as soon as it becomes available.

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