On Thursday, patients who previously received the single-shot J&J vaccine could request an mRNA vaccine dose through Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital (ZSFG). But again: The shot, itself, isn't exactly a "booster," per se.

All of the current COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective at mitigating infections and severe expressions of the disease. (They, too, remain our best bet at reaching universal herd immunity — a milestone many epidemiologists believe offers our best chance at winning the war against the Deal variant.) But when ZSFG announced those who received the J&J vaccine, which was developed using more traditional vaccine preparations, could get a supplemental mRNA dose, confusion arose.

Much of that head-scratching was around the fact that these innoculations wouldn't be booster shots, but rather supplemental doses.

“There has been some publicity about an accommodation that the health department made,” San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said during a recent press conference, according to KRON4. “There hasn’t been a change in our policy but if people talk to their health care provider and say, ‘I’d really like to have an mRNA shot in addition to the Johnson and Johnson shot that I got,’ we will accommodate that."


And there's a valid reason to want an mRNA supplemental dose (which is what these inoculations administered at ZSFG will be; they're not "boosters" of newly developed vaccines). Multiple reports show the J&J vaccine may not be as effective in preventing infections from the Delta variant as mRNA-based Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Moreover, there's a growing amount of evidence that giving patients who were previously treated with a J&J vaccine can significantly improve their immunity against not only the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, but other variants as well with a second shot.

"We’re accommodating that because we heard from the community that people were concerned and requesting," Colfax said before adding some clarification to previous statements made by the health department. "We wanted to be responsive and accommodate what people are asking for in that regard. But it’s not a change in policy. We’re not recommending that and we’re not promoting that as a way for people to become more protected.”

(The latter stance on not pushing these supplemental doses could be an attempt to fall in line with the World Health Organization [WHO] which recently came out against these "boosters," in order to ensure the unvaccinated have the chance to get inoculated first.)

To make sure those looking for these doses are as informed as possible, SFDPH says those who’ve gotten the J&J vaccine and are seeking a supplemental shot should consult with a doctor or their health provider first.

The most recent estimates from San Francisco show that 70% of the city's eligible residents have completed a full COVID-19 vaccine series; at least 76% of San Franciscans who can receive a COVID-19 inoculation have received one vaccine dose.

Nevertheless: Don't forget to mask up while inside public spaces amid this fourth wave to help lower its crest.

Related: Pandemic Updates: SF's Test-Positivity Rate Hits 15-Month High, Parties and Shows Start to Cancel Out of Caution

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Image: Getty Images/Ridofranz