A COVID-19 vaccine is administered at a mobile clinic in West Long Beach. Photo by Sebastian Echeverry.

Following the state of California’s lead, Long Beach health officials are now saying that anyone who’s already fully vaccinated can get a COVID-19 booster shot.

The city is giving boosters to all adults now, Long Beach Health Department spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein said today.

The pervasive COVID-19 delta variant and concern over another winter surge in infections have driven the need for a booster shot, medical professionals say.

The delta variant especially is “really good at finding people, including people who got vaccinated at the beginning of the year and now that vaccination is wearing off a little bit,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Associated Press. “Delta is a powerful force and everybody needs that third dose.”

Long Beach’s decision comes after state officials expanded eligibility for COVID-19 booster shots last week.

Local health jurisdictions and providers should not turn away any patient requesting a booster shot if the patient is at least 18 and was fully vaccinated with either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago, or was vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago, according to a Nov. 9 letter from state health officer Tomás J. Aragón.

Pharmacies should still prioritize long-term care facility partnerships to ensure that those living in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities get boosters, according to Aragón. But he added that it’s up to each person to assess the risk of contracting COVID-19 in determining whether to get a booster.

That assessment of risk exposure may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Working with the public or living with someone who works with the public;
  • Living or working with someone at high risk of severe impact of COVID-19;
  • Living in geographic areas that have been heavily impacted by COVID-19;
  • Living in high transmission areas and/or a congregate setting;
  • Experiencing social inequity;
  • Facing other risk conditions as assessed by the individual.

“Allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” Aragón said in the letter. “In addition, providers should not miss any opportunity to vaccinate the unvaccinated or provide boosters by offering vaccine during routine or non-routine visits to medical offices, clinics, pharmacies, and hospitals.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California secretary of health and human services, repeated that point the next day.

“If you think you will benefit from getting a booster shot, I encourage you to go out and get it,” Ghaly said during a Nov. 10 briefing.

Though state officials first began encouraging boosters for any resident who wanted one, online appointment sites like MyTurn continue to reject those who aren’t over 65, have preexisting health conditions or face a high risk of exposure at work. It’s unclear when that might change, according to SFGATE.

The Centers for Disease Control still considers anyone who has received the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna dose or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to be fully vaccinated. Experts say those doses still offer strong protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death. But because the vaccine’s protection against infection and mild illness has been shown to decrease over time, the CDC recommends a booster shot, especially for aged 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems.

People can get a booster with any brand, regardless of which vaccination they received initially, according to city health officials. The boosters for the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are full-strength doses, while the Moderna booster is a half-strength dose, according to the CDC.

City officials strongly suggest that you get an appointment for your booster shot. People may visit myturn.ca.gov or call 562-570-4636 to make an appointment.

Click here for the city’s official vaccine webpage.

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Melissa Evans is the Chief Executive Officer of the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal. Reach her at [email protected], @melissaevansLBP or 562-512-6354.

Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.