BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s health department recommended Wednesday that anyone 18 and older get a coronavirus vaccine booster if they’ve already been immunized, saying that would strengthen protection against COVID-19 as other parts of the country see upticks in the illness.
The new guidance from the Department of Health suggests adults who completed a two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccine series get a booster if their last shot was six or more months ago, along with adults who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine two or more months ago.
“We have made significant progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in our state, which is why as we head into the holiday season it is critical that Louisianans get a booster shot as soon as they become eligible in order to protect themselves and their loved ones against the possibility of another surge,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said in a statement announcing the change.
People eligible can choose which vaccine they want for a booster dose and can get a different shot from the one they previously received, according to the health department.
Previous guidance from the health department had recommended booster doses for everyone 18 and older who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But for those who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the agency only had been suggesting boosters for everyone 65 and older and for those 18 and older who have certain underlying medical conditions or who live or work in settings that place them at higher risk to COVID-19.
The new, broadened recommendations come as Louisiana emerged from its fourth and worst surge of the coronavirus illness and is now seeing its lowest number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the earliest days of the pandemic.
Fewer than 200 people in the state were hospitalized Wednesday with COVID-19, the lowest number since March 2020 and well below the state’s peak of more than 3,000 in August, according to state data. The percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive for COVID-19 has fallen below 2% statewide.
Still, Edwards noted on his monthly radio show that Louisiana hasn’t had a single day without a COVID-19 death reported since March 2020.
“While our COVID-19 trends are much better than they have been, the virus remains active statewide and that means there is still risk involved when people gather together,” Dr. Joe Kanter, the state’s chief public health officer, said in a statement.
Kanter said with the holidays approaching, boosters or vaccines for those not yet immunized will offer protection for people seeking to celebrate together.
But Louisiana continues to struggle to persuade people to get the coronavirus vaccine and remains among states with the lowest immunization rates. About 48% of Louisiana’s total residents — more than 2.2 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to health department data.
Nearly 343,000 people in Louisiana have received booster doses so far.