The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cleared up lingering confusion about the COVID-19 booster shots from Pfizer-BioNTech, and they are now available for Frederick County residents who qualify under federal guidelines.
The decision was reached after much discussion among scientists, some of whom were certain the booster was needed and others who felt the vital vaccines were better used to inoculate those who have not yet gotten the shots.
The CDC sided with those who urged greater protection for the elderly, the immunocompromised and those likely to be exposed to the virus because of their work, including health care workers and educators.
Eligible people include: individuals 65 and older, including all residents of long-term care facilities; 18 and older with underlying medical conditions; or 18 and older and at increased risk of infection because of settings in which they work or spend time in. The only other recommendation: Wait for six months after you received your second dose.
Following the CDC recommendations, Gov. Larry Hogan and state health officials directed vaccine providers to make boosters available to eligible Marylanders.
“If you received your second Pfizer dose at least six months ago, you should strongly consider getting a booster shot,” Hogan said in a statement.
At Hogan’s direction, county health officials have been administering third doses since Aug. 13 to people who are immunocompromised.
The CDC decision comes amid a fourth surge of the virus, caused by the highly contagious delta variant, that has infected millions of people since July and is now killing 2,000 people every week.
County Executive Jan Gardner last week reported significant outbreaks, including one at the detention center that had 18 confirmed cases among inmates and 10 among staff.
In addition, Frederick County Public Schools reported outbreaks at 18 schools. The school system is working desperately to contain the virus and will soon start a voluntary screening program for its employees to identify cases sooner and stop the spread.
The system has enrolled in the Maryland State Screening Test Program and is currently finalizing an agreement with a vendor, according to Superintendent Terry Alban.
The program will provide PCR screening tests and share results within 24 hours. Alban told the school board last week that the vendor should be ready to start during the first week of October.
President Biden has asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue new regulations that would require teachers and staffers to be vaccinated, but the school system wants to start the testing program while waiting for the new work rules.
All of this effort is necessary because a significant number of people still refuse to get the vaccine. The county reports that 146,000 people are now fully vaccinated, but that just is not enough to protect our children, our elderly and our brave teachers and health care workers from the disease.
The thoughtless people who continue to spread disease through our community in some misplaced desire to preserve their freedom from government edict are not just endangering themselves. They are needlessly placing all of the rest of us in jeopardy, even if we are vaccinated. Thus, the need for boosters.
The COVID virus is winning this war because one in four of our people refuse to fight. They are leaving some neighbors dead on the battlefield and others deathly ill in the hospital.
The booster shots, the increased testing and the new workplace rules will help, but if everyone would just take the shots to save our community, the war would be over. If you have a friend or relative who has not gotten the shot, you should urge them directly to do so, as soon as possible.