California is letting its residents decide their own COVID-19 risk when determining whether they need to get vaccine booster shots.
In a letter to vaccine providers throughout California, state health officer Dr. Tómas Aragón wrote: “Do not turn a patient away who is requesting a booster.”
According to the letter, those 18 or older can get boosters once six months have passed since getting the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or at least two months if they got Johnson & Johnson.
“Allow patients to self-determine their risk of exposure,” Aragón says, explaining that someone’s COVID-19 risk assessment may include where they live or work, or “if reside in high transmission areas” and “other risk conditions as assessed by the individual.”
The state’s interpretation of the eligibility gives providers more leeway to vaccinate all adults who come in asking for a booster — if the appropriate time has passed since getting the previous shot.
L.A. County Department of Public Health told KTLA it is “100% supportive and has been encouraging residents for several weeks to do a risk assessment to get a booster.”
“In our county, we’ve been saying all along, that we read the CDC guidance to really allow for individual people to assess their own risk,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a media briefing Friday.
“That risk includes being in communities that were very hard hit, where we’re seeing high numbers of cases — which at this point is all over L.A. County,” Ferrer added.
The health director said the county believes it’s still aligned with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which approved the boosters for those who are 65 years old or older, have underlying medical conditions, live in long-term care settings, work or live in high-risk settings or are at increased risk due to social inequity.
The state’s MyTurn vaccine appointment website still asks anyone who is making an appointment for a booster shot whether they fall into one of those eligibility requirements from the CDC.
Boosters are also available at hospitals, pharmacies and county vaccine sites.
L.A. County and state health officials said it’s important that people get the boosters in preparation for a potential winter surge as the weather cools, people gather indoors and vaccine effectiveness wanes.
“If you think you will benefit from getting a booster shot, I encourage you to go out and get it,” California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday.