TRI-CITIES (WJHL) Up to 99 million Americans are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots. This comes as all three manufacturers, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are now approved for an additional dose.
The CDC and the FDA gave the go-ahead for those additional COVID-19 booster shots last week. Across the region, they are now widely available at Tennessee and Virginia Health Departments as well as pharmacies and health offices across the region.
“The more people that are as best protected as possible against COVID-19 is better for all of us. It’s what we’ve been saying the whole time, is that we need everybody as protected as they can be,” said Breanne Forbes Hubbard, Population Health Manager for the Mount Rogers Health District with the Virginia Department of Health.
Those who qualify for a booster shot are those who are:
- 65 years and older
- Those 18 and older who live in long-term care settings
- Those 18 and older who have underlying medical conditions
- Those 18 and older who work or live in high-risk settings
Health officials say it is safe and effective for individuals to choose which vaccine they receive as a booster – they are not required to stick with the brand they got the first time.
“With the new authorization from the CDC and FDA, people can get the vaccine they choose for their booster. If they got Johnson & Johnson and they want Moderna or Pfizer, that’s allowable, and if they got Moderna or Pfizer and they want Johnson & Johnson, that’s allowable. Or you can stick with what you got their first time too,” said Forbes Hubbard.
Dr. Morgan McDonald, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health with the Tennessee Department of Health, says it is good news that those making the choice of what booster shot to receive have three safe options.
“You are not going to make the wrong choice. Often that is going to come down to convenience, or it may come down to preference and what is available at local health offices,” said McDonald.
Especially for older individuals, health officials say a booster can help prevent severe COVID infection and hospitalization after contracting the virus.
“Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 through the month of August. The small population of individuals who were vaccinated and hospitalized, or had severe illness, tended to be our older, sicker, more immuno-compromised population. So, it would make sense that they would need a booster dose,” said McDonald.
Healthcare workers, teachers, first responders and others who work with the public daily are considered high-risk based on their occupation and are approved for a booster shot.
“For somebody like that, your occupation is putting you at risk,” said Forbes Hubbard. “For some other risk groups, it may not be so much about ‘are they going to get it from their occupation or are they mission-critical to the functioning of our society?’ And we want to make sure they are not going to get sick with COVID and be down and out.”
Those who originally received their two doses of Pfizer or Moderna are recommended to wait six months after initial immunization before getting a booster.
For Johnson & Johnson, it is recommended to wait at least two months after receiving the initial single-dose shot.
Where to get the shot in Tennessee
The Northeast Regional Health Office of the Tennessee Department of Health is offering booster doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccine to certain populations effective immediately at the local health departments in the region. At this time, Johnson & Johnson is not being offered at the regional offices.
Health departments in the region include Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins-Church Hill, Hawkins-Rogersville, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties.
Anyone who would like to sign up for Moderna or Pfizer booster dose appointments can do so online or by calling their local health department office.
The Northeast Regional Health Office says locations for vaccine vary and will be noted during registration. Walk-in options are also available at all Northeast Regional Health Departments.
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Where to get the shot in Virginia
For the Mount Rogers Health District in Southwest Virginia, booster appointments are limited at this time to Fridays in local health department offices. Vaccine boosters are also widely available at local pharmacies and other health care providers in Virginia.
The Mount Rogers Health District is offering Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine boosters.
The health district asks that you call your local health department to schedule an appointment. Walk-ins may be able to be accommodated, but appointments are strongly encouraged.
Make sure to bring your vaccine card from your primary vaccine series with you to your booster appointment.
For more information about COVID-19 vaccination, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine. For details on COVID-19 vaccination in Mount Rogers Health District, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/mount-rogers/.