Health agencies prepare to offer second COVID booster

April 5—PLATTSBURGH — Local health departments are preparing to offer a second booster dose of COVID-19 messenger RNA vaccines to eligible populations after the state gave the go-ahead this weekend.

Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized additional shots for certain populations who received their first booster shots at least four months ago.

These include adults 50 and older, some immunocompromised people 12 and older, and adults 18 to 49 who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for their primary vaccine and first booster dose. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later updated their recommendations to reflect the clearance.

“Getting vaccinated and staying up to date with all recommended doses is the most effective way to prevent serious illness and hospitalizations, and to move forward safely during this pandemic,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement Saturday.

COVID ‘ALWAYS WITH US’

According to a CDC press release, during the recent omicron surge, those who were boosted were 21 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than those who weren’t vaccinated, and seven times less likely to be hospitalized.

“For each of us, vaccination remains our best personal line of defense against COVID,” Dr. Mary Bassett of the state Department of Health said in a statement.

“As we have seen with the recent surge in the omicron BA.2 sub-variant, COVID is still with us. These safe and effective vaccines remain free, including the second booster.”

Following booster dose pre-authorizations, the Pfizer vaccine can be given to people aged 12 and older, while Moderna can be given to people aged 18 and older.

STANDING ORDERS

Drugstore chains, including Walgreens, Kinney Drugs and CVS, have already started offering second boosters.

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Health Services and Indian Health Services announced their availability on Friday. Members can get their doses by appointment or at the tribe’s walk-in clinics on Wednesdays.

Molly Flynn, senior public health educator for the Clinton County Health Department, said her agency wants to follow suit as soon as possible.

“We were expecting an update to the scheduling system the state uses for appointments; it came Friday night,” she said. “Now we just need some up-to-date standing orders signed by our doctor.”

CCHD clinics are held on Thursdays. Flynn said the hope is to offer the second boosters as early as this week, and CCHD will let residents know as soon as details are confirmed.

NEXT WEEK

The Essex County Health Department and Franklin County Public Health hope to begin offering second boosters at their clinics next week.

“Since New York State made the announcement this weekend, we have been working to update documentation and systems before we can begin rolling out doses to the public,” said Andrea Whitmarsh, coordinator. of the ECHD program.

“Right now we are holding vaccination clinics every Monday at our office in Elizabethtown, so we expect to be up and running with the second booster next Monday, April 11.”

The ECHD will advertise the availability of appointments on its website, www.co.essex.ny.us/Health. The agency can also be reached at 518-873-3500.

FCPH public health educator Sarah Granquist said second reminders will be added to FCPH clinics, held on Mondays and Wednesdays, once standing orders sent by the DOH are approved.

VARIABLE DEMAND

Agencies reported varying degrees of demand for second booster doses.

Granquist said FCPH received a phone call, while Flynn said a handful of residents contacted CCHD to express interest.

“We certainly have enough vaccine doses to ensure that anyone who qualifies and wants to get one will have the opportunity,” she added.

“We expect demand to be steady in the weeks immediately following approval,” Whitmarsh said. “We have already fielded calls from residents who are ready to receive their second callback.”

You will find more information on where to get vaccinated on page A7.

Email Cara Chapman:

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Twitter: @PPR_carachapman