2021 | Coronavirus

County anticipates approval of third doses, boosters for Moderna, J&J vaccines

Hospitalizations have been higher in older residents, despite lower overall case counts

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Bethesda resident Vanessa Fontana Keszler receives her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the vaccine site on Montgomery College's Germantown campus on March 31, 2021. County officials are anticipating FDA approval of third doses for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson later this week.

File Photo

A public health official said Monday that Montgomery County is closely monitoring the possible approval of coronavirus booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19vaccines.

Sean O’Donnell, the public health emergency manager for the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters Monday that the Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to review booster data for Moderna on Thursday and for Johnson and Johnson on Friday.

O’Donnell said those reviews are important because currently, only third doses of the Pfizer vaccine are available to immunocompromised and older residents. The FDA approved third doses of that vaccine for immunocompromised individuals and for everyone 65 and older last month. 

According to Montgomery County data, 5 percent of all coronavirus cases from Sept. 6 to Oct. 3, or 142 cases, resulted in hospitalizations.

The frequency of hospitalizations was more than twice as high for residents 60 years or older in counts per 100,000 residents, versus those younger than 50, despite lower overall case rates per 100,000 people among older populations.

“That really goes to the emphasis of why booster shots are being recommended for our seniors,” O’Donnell said. 

Every person is different, but it’s not uncommon to see people’s immune systems become less effective as they age, he added.

Contact tracers for the county are still tracking where cases in older people are occurring, including in congregate senior living facilities and by U.S. Census tracts, but O’Donnell did not immediately have that information available Monday.

But he added that congregate living facilities are at least contributing to the trend.

O’Donnell and county officials encouraged those who haven’t gotten vaccinated to do so. As of Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reporting that 99.1% of Montgomery County residents age 12 and older — the eligible population — had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. 

The CDC also reported that 89.8% of the county’s eligible population was fully vaccinated. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com