Federal govt. issues guidance
This fall, adults vaccinated against COVID-19 may need to plan on getting a booster shot.
Top U.S. health agencies and officials including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Surgeon General and Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others, issued a joint statement on Aug. 18 outlining the need for all vaccinated individuals to get COVID-19 booster shots.
“We have developed a plan to begin offering these booster shots this fall subject to FDA conducting an independent evaluation and determination of the safety and effectiveness of a third dose of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines and CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issuing booster dose recommendations based on a thorough review of the evidence,” the statement reads.
The statement notes that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, like many vaccines for other illnesses, decrease in efficacy overtime, though it notes that they are still proving to be largely effective against infection and hospitalization due to COVID-19 variants.
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration this week.
Local health care providers are planning on an increase in vaccine doses starting next month, though the guidance isn’t set in stone yet.
“We know it’s coming and I think the Twisp (Family Health Centers) clinic alone has had well over 80 people who have called and said, ‘When they’re ready I want mine,’” said Julie Wehmeyer, employee health and infection control manager at Family Health Centers.
According to the state Department of Health, 21,303 people are fully vaccinated in Okanogan County.
Some already approved
Some COVID-19 booster shots have already been approved for a narrow subset of patients with increased risk for infection.
North Valley Hospital in Tonasket was the first Okanogan County provider with access to the Pfizer vaccine earlier this year.
“For the last several months we have had no issues getting as much of the Pfizer vaccine as we wanted and hopefully that remains true even as we look forward to third shots,” said North Valley CEO John McReynolds. “North Valley Hospital has provided over 11,000 vaccines to over 5,500 patients. In the early going we were the only option in the county and based on much wider availability we are estimating we will likely have 2,000-3,000 booster-eligible patients that might return to our clinic for the third shot.”
However, McReynolds said patients don’t necessarily have to go to the same place they got their initial shots to get a booster, provided it’s the same vaccine.
“We will also work with partners in other areas of the county to ensure we can make it convenient as possible to get a vaccine,” he said. “Although they are certainly welcome, we want to support Twisp residents getting vaccinated in Twisp rather than Tonasket.”
Throughout the first wave of COVID vaccination efforts, the county’s providers all worked together closely to coordinate their efforts, Wehmeyer said. They’re working on a coming up with a plan to provide boosters as efficiently as possible.
Okanogan County Emergency Management Director Maurice Goodall said the providers may again choose to use the county’s emergency alert system to coordinate large vaccination events. However, at this point, he said it’s unclear if the county will chose to have large events or to have individual people coordinate their own booster shots.
“Like North Valley Hospital, many vaccine providers have transitioned to offering vaccines solely in clinics instead of mass vaccination events,” McReynolds added. “If the demand is there, the big events are an efficient way to capture a lot of patients and I would expect to see those events return at least briefly.”