The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announced last week that COVID-19 vaccination schedule guidance has changed.

The new data indicate that some people, ages 12 through 64 years—and especially males ages 12 through 39 years—would benefit from getting their second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose eight weeks after receiving their first dose, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Presently the state is experiencing dramatically decreasing coronavirus cases. Just 2,898 Alabamians were diagnosed with the coronavirus in the last week and only 934 of those cases were in school children. Some 721 Alabamians were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday, which is down from the most recent peak of 2,961 on Jan. 25.

The CDC said extending the time interval between primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses from three weeks (Pfizer-BioNTech) or four weeks (Moderna) to eight weeks may help increase how long protection lasts against COVID-19. It may also help lower the (small) risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (swelling of tissue around the heart), which has been associated—mostly among adolescent and young adult males—with mRNA COVID-19 vaccination.

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According to the CDC, regardless of the interval between the first and second dose, mRNA vaccines are highly effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and serious complications from COVID-19 infection.

The CDC said healthcare providers should continue to recommend the three-week or four-week interval for the following groups:

  • Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised

  • Adults ages 65 years and older

  • People who may need early protection due to concern about an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 or high levels of community transmission

The CDC said people ages 12 years and older with moderate or severe immunocompromised should receive three doses in their mRNA primary vaccine series and should receive a booster dose with an mRNA vaccine at least three months after completing their third primary series dose. 

Some 2,842,623 Alabamians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but only 2,315,774 (46.2%) of the state's people have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Of those Alabamians who have been fully vaccinated just 757,518 have received the booster shot.

According to a recent study by the CDC, the booster increases the effectiveness of the vaccine, but its effectiveness begins to wane after two months. Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization with COVID -19 falls from 91% at two months to just 78% by the fourth month. The vaccine has proven to be much less effective against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that began spreading across the U.S. in December.

According to ADPH, 1,523 Alabamians have died with COVID-19 during the first two months of 2022.

COVID cases and hospitalizations have gone up and down over the course of the pandemic with dramatic peaks in July/Aug 2022, Dec. 2020/Jan. 2021, Aug./Sept 2021, and Jan. 2022.

The state is continuing to receive shipments of Paxlovid (Pfizer) and/or Molnupiravir (Merck), which are anti-viral drugs that have received emergency FDA approval for treatment against COVID-19. There are also still some locations where monoclonal antibody treatments are available. If you have tested positive for the coronavirus, contact your doctor and the Alabama Department of Public Health for more information about treatment options. Treatments are still in short supply.

Coronaviruses are very common throughout nature. The common cold is often caused by a coronavirus, but the SARS-CoV-2 strain that causes COVID-19 is the deadliest coronavirus we have encountered in modern history. It was first identified in late 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.

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