RICHMOND, Va. -- Stocking up on the COVID-19 vaccine is much easier for Hope Pharmacy in the East End of Richmond compared to earlier this year. It’s a big reason Dr. Shantelle Brown thinks the rollout of booster doses, which are beginning for certain people who got the Pfizer shot, will be a pretty smooth process.
“We have a supply,” Dr. Brown said. “I think we have been put in a position to be very prepared, so I think the whole transition with boosters should be a lot simpler.”
Health experts with the CDC approved Pfizer boosters for certain populations because studies show the Delta variant and time are causing waning protection or the vaccinated. All approved COVID vaccines are safe and effective against severe illness and hospitalization, but recent data show a decrease in protection against mild to moderate cases, according to the CDC.
The following people are eligible for the Pfizer booster for now:
- Booster-eligible individuals include those who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago and fall into one of the following categories:
- Individuals 65 years or older
- Individuals 18 years or older living in a long-term care setting
- Individuals aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19
- Individuals aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19 based on their individual benefits and risks
- Individuals aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting based on their individual benefits and risk
Dr. Brown said since news of the booster availability went public, Hope Pharmacy has been inundated with inquiries.
“Lot of interest; lots of voicemails,” she said.
Monday, Governor Ralph Northam asked Virginians to “do the right thing” and only sign up for a booster appointment if they are eligible.
“The people who got Pfizer are the ones who should be thinking about boosters right now,” Northam said. “When you get there, it’s on the honor system. The person giving shots is not required to ask you about your vaccination status.”
Most pharmacies and health districts are asking those seeking the Pfizer booster to sign up for an appointment. Dr. Brown said Hope Pharmacy is asking their patients to show their COVID-19 vaccination card to ensure they are eligible.
A few of the patients who were vaccinated at Hope Pharmacy early in the year have come down with breakthrough cases in the past month, but Dr. Brown said every single one of them had very mild cases.
“No severe symptoms from those who I’ve spoken to who contracted COVID after getting their first and second doses,” Dr. Brown said. “I definitely think it gives the coverage but the booster is going to be needed.”
Both Modern and Johnson & Johnson have submitted their clinical data saying boosters doses enhance the immune response against COVID-19, and federal health officials are reviewing the data. There is no exact timeline for when recommendations about their booster doses will be handed down.
Dr. Brown said that is one of the main questions they get from patients currently.