Home News COVID-19 Situation State prepares for COVID booster authorization

State prepares for COVID booster authorization

In this file photo, Dr. David Scrase, acting Secretary of Health, is seen during an Aug. 6, 2020, news conference in Santa Fe. (Albuquerque Journal/Eddie Moore)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The state health department is gearing up for potential increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines next week in anticipation of a go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for certain groups to get booster shots.

The FDA announced the authorization Wednesday evening. New Mexico health officials spoke of the still-pending decision during a livestreamed press conference earlier in the afternoon, anticipating an announcement at the end of the week.

The FDA reviewed a recommendation from one of its advisory panels to give an emergency use authorization (EUA) for booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine for seniors and others at high risk for COVID-19.

Laura Parajón, Deputy Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health, said during the press conference if authorization came by the end of the week, the recommended groups could be eligible for the booster by Monday.

Currently, only those who are immunocompromised are eligible to receive a third dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Both of those vaccines received EUAs from the FDA in August for immunocompromised individuals to receive a third dose. That includes people who are on medications or under treatment that reduces their immune response, such as those who have received organ transplants or undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. Certain diseases can also lower a person’s immune response.

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Only the Pfizer vaccine was considered for the booster EUA, although Moderna and Johnson & Johnson also plan to apply for authorization. Parajón said some of the discussions going on this week are about whether or not a person could receive a booster different from their initial vaccine.

Parajón said those who would be eligible for the booster shot can schedule to receive one through their primary care physician, a pharmacy or the state’s vaccine registration website at vaccinenm.org.

She asked for New Mexicans to be patient in scheduling their booster shots.

“It will be similar in the sense that we’ll have much more demand than we’ll have sites for vaccines at first. But we want you to know at the Department of Health we have been doing a lot of planning,” she said.

The department has several plans in place depending on what the FDA recommends, she said.

“So far we have (age) 65-plus, that sounds like that’s definitely going to go through, but people who are high-risk for severe COVID, we’re still awaiting that recommendation. Once we have all of the people who are going to get their eligibility, then we can operationalize our plans,” she said.

Plans include recommendations for getting the vaccine six months or eight months after completing the initial vaccine series, she said. The department also is forming plans for when children under the age of 12 are eligible and when boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines might be authorized or given full approval.

The Pfizer vaccine is still in clinical trials for use in children age 5 to 11, but Parajón said the company is expected to apply by the end of September, possibly this week, for an EUA.

More than 2,000 children have been in the trial for a two-dose series using one-third of the dosage given to adults. The study has shown a strong immune response, she said.

“We’re hoping by Halloween your 5- to 11-year-olds can get vaccinated, which is exciting for those of you who have kids or grandkids in that age group,” she said.

Parajón and Dr. David Scrase, acting secretary of the Department of Health, said the COVID-19 vaccine, both the initial series and booster shots, can be given at the same time as other vaccines, such as the flu shot or required childhood vaccines.

Scrase said the state is now moving to a phase where it will be less dependent on mass vaccination clinics to get the vaccine out, especially for children.

“We’re really counting on pediatricians in New Mexico who see kids a lot during their younger years and are like experts at administering every single vaccine. We think our pediatricians and our family practice doctors who do this exact same thing for kids are going to be key to this effort as well,” he said.

“We are in a transition, I think, from mass vaccination clinics and all the things we did in the winter and spring and summer to really having this be part of your normal health care in your doctor’s office,” he said.

Scrase also mentioned in the press conference there have been two deaths in the state confirmed to be caused by ivermectin.

“We cannot release much more detail than that just because of the circumstances and there are details that would make it easy for someone in their area to narrow down who it might be,” he said.

One of the individuals had a serious COVID infection and was on a ventilator while the other was treated with dialysis, he said.

“The ivermectin was basically taken in lieu of or instead of effective treatments,” he said.

The drug is commonly given to treat parasites in animals and has FDA approval for human use for conditions such as parasites, head lice or skin conditions. It has not been given approval or authorization for COVID-19 treatment.

Scrase said while it has been shown in some studies to have antiviral properties, it can be toxic. Scrase said the University of New Mexico’s Poison Control Center has received one or two calls per day over the last week regarding ivermectin, double what it received the previous week. NMDOH is now requiring health care providers to report cases of ivermectin toxicity.

In the daily case update for Wednesday, NMDOH reported 719 new cases of COVID-19 including 51 in Chaves County. The total number of cases in the state is now 247,353 including 11,630 in Chaves County.

A Chaves County man in his 50s was among the 18 deaths related to COVID-19 reported Wednesday. He had been hospitalized and is the county’s 187th death related to the virus.

The total number of deaths in the state is now 4,719.

As of Wednesday, 359 people were hospitalized in New Mexico for COVID-19.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

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