Boosting immunity | 3rd doses of Pfizer COVID vaccine now available for vulnerable populations

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES (WJHL) – On Monday, third doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine became widely available in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia after recent FDA and CDC approval.

Health officials across the Tri-Cities region are urging those who qualify to get the additional dose.

“The CDC and FDA looked into this data and saw that there was a little bit of waning immunity in some populations. It’s still good, strong, protective immunity, but they wanted to give those populations the opportunity to get a third dose, a booster dose, to help boost their immunity and protect them,” said Breanne Forbes Hubbard with the Mount Rogers Health District, which covers Southwest Virginia.

At this time, only certain populations are approved for the third dose – the CDC says that includes those over the age of 65, those in long-term care facilities, people with underlying health conditions and those who are considered high risk, medically or occupationally.

The third shot is recommended for vulnerable populations at least six months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer.

“The concept of boostering is not new, and not novel. It’s part of the way we keep our immunities primed to protect against a particular illness,” said Dr. Stephen May, Medical Director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.

Dr. May says health officials are still fighting vaccine hesitancy when it comes to getting the first and second dose.

“We know 99% of those who die, and people are still dying, are unvaccinated. That is proof in itself that the vaccine is effective,” said May.

Health officials say you cannot mix-and-match the booster Pfzier vaccine, so those who did not originally get vaccinated with Pfizer will need to wait; but they say this should not be a cause for concern.

“For folks who got Moderna and J&J, your immunity is still really protective so there is no need to panic,” said Hubbard.

For the small number of hospitalizations in those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, health officials say it is largely in this high-risk, older population. By giving this population another layer of protection, they add it would likely keep them out of the hospitals in case of severe infection.

“It’s really helpful for those certain populations to get a boost to their immunity so they are protected better than they are without it,” said Hubbard.

Other groups who qualify include those with high-risk conditions like cancer, lung disease, diabetes, obesity, pregnancy and long-term smokers. Those who work in a high-risk institutional setting like first responders, healthcare professionals and teachers also qualify.

Health officials said that they are still awaiting more information on Moderna and Johnson and Johnson booster shots, but they are expecting that information sometime soon.

Where can I get a Pfizer booster shot?

  • By appointment only through the Sullivan County Regional Health Department – call 423-279-2777
  • Through Ballad Health facilities – call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523 or make an appointment online
  • By appointment only in Southwest Virginia’s Mount Rogers Health District – vaccine providers can be found online
  • At all local health departments in Northeast Tennessee: Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins-Church Hill, Hawkins-Rogersville, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington Counties – by appointment or walk-in

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