Philadelphia health officials announced earlier this year they had given out more than 260,000 booster doses since August. While the breakdown by age and race is available for initial vaccinations, the city had not previously released those numbers publicly.
The booster demographics break down along similar lines as they first did for initial vaccinations, with Asian and White Philadelphians at the highest rates, followed by Black and Hispanic Philadelphians.
In terms of age, the highest risk group, those over 65, are the most boosted, at 41%. The younger groups were lower. The city did not provide statistics for those ages 12 to 17, noting that the group just became eligible for booster shots, so the numbers are very low.
The data comes with a few big caveats. The first is that the numbers only capture those who got all three doses in Philadelphia — or both doses, in the case of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. If an individual received any of the doses outside Philly, that person won’t be included in the “boosted” statistics.
Philadelphia Department of Public Health epidemiologists are in the process of reconciling statewide figures with city numbers to be able to provide a fuller picture.
“They’re convinced that the number will rise significantly, and the demographic breakdown may change significantly,” Health Department spokesman James Garrow said in an email.
Once the Pennsylvania data is incorporated, anyone who got previous doses in another state will be left out.
Even if the rates jump considerably, the data provides a grim picture of the city’s progress on boosting its residents — especially as mounting evidence shows the third shots are crucial in protecting against the omicron variant. New evidence released Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that booster doses were instrumental in keeping people out of the hospital during the latest wave. The agency reported that the third dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines reduced hospitalizations by 90%. It was most effective for those over 50.
Of the more than 1 million fully vaccinated Philadelphians over the age of 5, just a quarter have been boosted. That includes the 12- to 17-year-olds who just became eligible for the shot.
Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said she thought the hesitancy around boosters may come from not wanting to experience the same undesirable side effects that people got from the first vaccine doses.
“But with omicron, we really need the boosters to be fully protected,” she said. “Sore arm, little bit of headache, fatigue for a couple of days is not a bad price to pay for that safety.”
Bettigole said the city is working with long-term care facilities to help encourage boosters among residents there. Philly Counts is going door to door to talk to people about boosters, and the city is working with other community partners to send out reminders and get the word out.