The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) shared this week that just 23,000 San Franciscans who are 65 years or older — roughly 20% of the city's entire eligible senior population — have received their COVID-19 booster shot ahead of the holiday season.
Booster shots for COVID-19 vaccines — or rather "supplemental doses" — became available earlier this summer, beginning initially with those suffering from severe underlying health conditions and people over the age of 65 years old. But as data shows that vaccine efficacy begins to wane after around six months after a vaccine is given, booster shots are becoming increasingly important. And with the holiday season around the corner, that importance can't be stressed enough.
Starting today, SoMa's Kapwa Gardens (967 Mission St) will serve as a vax + testing site for eligible SF residents from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Walk-ins are welcome! Pre-register here:https://t.co/ISwZlBQuHG#VaccinateSF— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) November 3, 2021
“This has been such a tough year for many of us, and we want this holiday season to be full of joy and togetherness,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, SFDPH’s Deputy Director of Health. “Those among us who are at higher risk – including seniors – can easily get a COVID-19 booster to strengthen their immunity and stay healthy. Boosters are now available no matter what vaccine you received initially: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. And of course, if you are unvaccinated, we can’t say enough that it’s imperative you get your vaccine immediately.”
However, recent data from SFDPH shows that only a fifth of all eligible San Francisco seniors have received a COVID-19 booster. More worrisome: People who are over 65 years and older were among the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, making their immunity less efficacious against the disease than those who've more recently received their COVID-19 vaccines.
“Not only are our seniors experiencing waning immunity because they were among the first to get vaccinated nearly a year ago, but they are also often at higher risk because of underlying medical conditions and comorbidities,” added Bobba in a press release from SFDPH. “This is why we are urging seniors to get their boosters as soon as possible.”
#DYK? Certain groups of people who previously got the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna #COVID19 vaccines can get a booster shot. Everyone 18 & older who received the J&J/Janssen vaccine can get a booster shot.— CDC (@CDCgov) November 5, 2021
Learn more: https://t.co/7ZbkDYko3v. pic.twitter.com/IirOjQyMBX
Per the Chronicle, of the 52,000 COVID-19 booster shots the City had given out by November 1, less than half have been given to people 65 and older. Vaccinating seniors usually requires additional effort from healthcare providers and clinics; older people are more likely to be homebound than younger populations; seniors, as well, can struggle to navigate online vaccine appointments on computers, smartphones, and tablets.
Granted: There could also be a level of complacency at play about getting booster shots, given how well San Francisco’s been at rolling out vaccines. But that pertains perhaps more to younger generations who are eligible for the supplemental doses — and may well not even know it.
The Chronicle noted that several local community organizations are working to help more seniors get boosters, by and large helping them solve digital access issues. The Latino Task Force (LTF) — a nonprofit that’s been working to vaccinate San Francisco’s Latino population since these doses became available to the general public — is one such group. Valerie Tulier-Laiwa, an LTF’s task coordinator, said to the newspaper that she's seen the group’s efforts have been “very successful” in reaching out to seniors in the Latino community; the group has seen particular success in using mobile vaccination clinics that can reach homebound residents.
As of publishing, there have been 16 deaths of fully vaccinated people due to complications from COVID-19 in San Francisco — the vast majority of those deaths occurring in people with underlying health conditions. COVID-19 boosters, which the F.D.A recommends should be taken as soon as you become eligible to receive one, are now available at nearly 100 vaccination sites in SF, most of which allow drop-ins; there's no need to make an online vaccination, beforehand.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, as well as how to receive one in the City and County of San Francisco, visit sf.gov/get-vaccinated-against-covid-19.
Image: Getty Images/Ridofranz