COLUMBIA – Some local health departments are juggling the tasks of administering both flu shots and COVID-19 booster shots this fall.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) will meet Thursday and Friday to discuss the use of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster doses.
Pfizer is currently the only vaccine available for eligible groups to get a booster dose.
As the peak of flu season is approaching, the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) is focusing the majority of its resources to providing flu shots for the community.
Sara Humm, the public information specialist of Columbia/Boone County PHHS, said this time of year requires a lot of staff.
“It takes a lot of staff time to do all of those schools because we go to every public elementary, middle school, high school in Boone County, as well as a handful of private schools,” Humm said. “And we’re still in the process of doing that.”
Humm said another reason the focus is centered around flu shots is because plenty of COVID-19 vaccines are available throughout Boone County.
“That’s certainly a different place than we were in the spring where the supply was much more limited and demand was higher than it was with the supply,” Humm said.
Kristi Campbell, the director of the Cole County Health Department, said it’s also experiencing a surplus in COVID-19 vaccines.
“The demand has currently decreased,” Campbell said. “But also the availability of the vaccine has increased.”
For the same reason, Campbell said the department’s efforts are focused on fighting flu season.
“For the month of October, we are very busy administering flu shots. We’re doing over 41 off-site clinics for flu shots,” Campbell said.
According to the CDC, booster doses are currently available only for recipients of the Pfizer vaccine who received their first two doses at least six months ago and who fall into these categories:
- 65 years and older
- Age 18+ living in long-term care facilities
- Age 18+ with underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ working in high-risk settings
- Age 18+ living in high-risk settings
If approved, individuals 18 and older who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines and belong to similar eligibility groups would be able to get a booster dose.
Campbell said the Cole County Health Department expects local demand for booster doses to increase if more options are approved.
“We would anticipate that if the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson does get approved for booster shots, that we will see those individuals seek out a booster dose if they fall into the eligible age groups,” Campbell said.
Even though Campbell said she predicts this demand to increase, the department doesn’t plan to hold any mass vaccination clinics in the future.
“Those mass clinics kind of had their time, but now it seems like people are having those individual conversations with their doctor,” Campbell said. “They’re seeking out those small, one-on-one interactions.”
Humm said the Columbia/Boone County PHHS only offers a COVID-19 vaccination clinic by appointment on Saturdays. She said the department also isn’t considering bringing back mass vaccination clinics, but would plan to expand clinic availability based on demand for booster doses.
“We’ll certainly kind of reassess to see what that looks like after our school-based flu shot clinics and see if we can additionally offer more Saturdays,” Humm said.
Humm said the timing of the FDA’s approval of additional booster doses will play a big role in the decisions the department will make in the future.
“Not really knowing exactly when all of these things might happen, can certainly make it difficult for figuring out what that planning process looks like,” Humm said.