Colorado says all adults eligible for COVID booster shots

Colorado health officials this week declared the entire state a high-risk environment for COVID-19, saying all vaccinated adults now qualify for booster shots to help fend off the virus once enough time has elapsed since their original inoculation.

Dr. Eric France, the state’s chief medical officer, said in a news release Monday evening that the whole state is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, a “significant wave of disease spread” that makes it a potentially high-risk place to live and work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s booster-shot guidance for recipients of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines identified high-risk settings as one of the qualifying conditions for third doses, but defined them much more narrowly, with only people who live in congregate facilities like nursing homes or work in places that require extensive interaction with the public making the cut.

“The vaccine continues to protect against severe disease and hospitalization, but may allow persons to get mild disease, which leads to ongoing transmission,” France said in a statement. “With the ongoing transmission, Coloradans — and particularly unvaccinated Coloradans — are at high risk of getting the virus. As much as we’d like it to be over, the pandemic is still raging.”

Jessica Bralish, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said Tuesday that Colorado is in alignment with the CDC because the federal agency’s guidance says you can get a booster if you are at “high risk because of where you live or work.”

“Because disease spread is so significant across Colorado, all Coloradans (ages 18+) qualify for a booster,” she said in a statement. “With an estimated 1 in 48 Coloradans infected, it is likely that all Coloradans can be exposed to COVID-19 where they live or work.”

The state health department also called attention to a recent public health order that included a provision forbidding vaccine providers from refusing to give booster shots to anyone 18 and older who says they meet the eligibility criteria, and who got their last Pfizer or Moderna shot at least six months ago, or their Johnson & Johnson shot at least two months ago.

Some local departments, including Boulder County Public Health, have adjusted their messaging to emphasize that almost anyone can get a booster to help stop the virus’ spread.

It’s not clear if state officials’ announcement represents a shift in how they are approaching the fifth wave of the virus. In previous news conferences, health officials had emphasized that statewide measures like mask mandates weren’t necessary, because different regions were seeing varying levels of spread.

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