Illinois' health department issued new guidance Friday recommending anyone 18 years or older get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot when they are eligible.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said the announcement was made following a ruling from the Food and Drug Administration, which authorized booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for all U.S. adults.
IDPH said it now recommends residents 18 and older get a Moderna or Pfizer booster shot six months after receiving their second shot, or two months after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“For continued, ongoing protection, we are urging everyone who is eligible to get a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to get one,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a statement. “Scientific and medical experts have reviewed the data and found booster doses are beneficial. While we need more people who are completely unvaccinated to get their first doses, we cannot risk losing some of the protection the vaccines have already provided due to waning immunity.”
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Health officials said that while all three vaccines used in the U.S. continue to offer strong protection against severe COVID-19 illness and death, the shots’ effectiveness against milder infection can wane over time.
"The lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes since getting vaccinated, as well as the greater infectiousness of the delta variant," IDPH said in a release. "Getting a booster shot is not uncommon. This happens every year with seasonal flu vaccine."
While the department still recommends residents get the same type of vaccine for first and second doses of the mRNA COVID vaccine, "mix and matching vaccines for booster shots is allowed." Moderna’s booster is half the dose that’s used for the first two shots.
Boosters were previously recommended for people who initially received their second Pfizer or Moderna shots at least six months ago if they’re 65 or older or are at high risk of COVID-19 because of health problems or their job or living conditions. Boosters are also recommended for people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock cleared the extra doses for all adults Friday without the usual public meeting to review new data submitted by the companies.
Last week, Pfizer asked U.S. regulators to allow boosters of its COVID-19 vaccine for anyone 18 or older. Moderna resubmitted its application just two days ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still has to authorize distribution of the booster doses before people can start receiving the shots, which could start this weekend.
The CDC's independent panel of vaccine experts is scheduled to meet on Friday to review the new data. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday said the public health agency would "act swiftly" after the FDA OKs the shots.
Nearly 31 million Americans have received a dose beyond their original vaccination, including those with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and organ transplant recipients who need an extra dose to be fully vaccinated.
Some cities and states already allow all adults to get boosters of Pfizer's vaccine, but it is not yet official U.S. policy. In the last week, California, New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia and Colorado expanded the shots to all adults. New York City made a similar move.
Cook County health officials said Monday that "no one seeking a booster will be turned away from a vaccination site" and Will County issued a similar statement Thursday saying, "we will not turn anyone (over the age of 18) that wants a booster dose away."
Last week, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Chicago residents over the age of 18 won't be turned away from getting COVID-19 vaccine booster shots as health officials report "plenty of availability."
"You're not gonna get turned away from getting a booster if you're over the age of 18," Arwady said in a Facebook Live event. "We have plenty of availability here."