San Francisco will provide an extra dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for people who got the single-shot Johnson & Johnson variety but public health officials aren't calling it a booster, authorities said Tuesday.
In a possibly unique decision in California, the Department of Public Health said people who request it can receive a supplemental dose at city-run clinics. The second shot will be a vaccine produced by either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
Both of those companies offer vaccines that require two doses.
While Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is effective at preventing serious infections, "we have gotten requests based on patients talking to their physicians, and that's why we are allowing the accommodations," said Naveena Bobba, the department's deputy director of health.
Confusion has swirled around the various vaccines and whether they are effective against the delta variant of the virus, which is sparking a troubling upsurge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in California and other states.
"Potential benefit, no downside. To me, as we look at the future of this virus and now we're facing a fourth surge, it does make sense," said Dr. Chris Colwell, chief of emergency medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General, according to KGO-TV.
State health officials on Tuesday reported more than 7,300 new cases of the coronavirus and 6.7% of tests were positive over a seven-day period, a steep increase from just a few weeks ago although still far lower than during a fall and winter surge.
Local and state health officials say the upswing is being driven by the unvaccinated.
Vaccines decrease the severity of the illness, reduce hospitalizations and decrease the risk of death. Clinical trials showed that a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19 in the United States, compared with 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Last month, Johnson & Johnson said its vaccine provided at least eight months of immunity from COVID-19 and "generated strong, persistent activity" against the delta variant.
Public health officials described the shot as a supplement rather than a booster shot.
"It's not a booster because it's not specific for some of the variants, which the booster ultimately will be," Colwell said.
"This move does not represent a change in policy," a public health department statement said. "We continue to align with the (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and do not recommend a booster shot at this time."