COVID-19: Local vaccine clinics planned ahead of anticipated booster announcements

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    By Randi Pierce
    Staff Writer

    San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) and its partners will continue to host COVID-19 vaccine clinics in the coming days and weeks in anticipation of federal authorization of Moderna and Johnson and Johnson booster doses.

    “Clinics this weekend are planned in anticipation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) review of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster doses which will occur today and tomorrow,” a Wednesday press release from SJBPH explains. “Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters will be administered after the CDC’s approval, which could come as early as this Friday or Saturday. SJBPH will continue to monitor guidance from the CDC and update the community if and when Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters are approved.”

    The press release notes the clinics will offer first, second, third and booster doses of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines.

    All three COVID-19 vaccine types will be available at SJBPH’s clinics scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Pagosa Springs Middle School, located at 309 Lewis Street.

    Appointments can be made through https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/. 

    SJBPH COVID-19 Public Information Officer/Communications Director Chandler Griffin suggested the agency is confident the clinics that are scheduled for this weekend will meet the demand.

    While it remains to be seen who will be eligible for Moderna and Johnson and Johnson booster shots, booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are currently available for individuals ages 65 and older, high-risk workers, people in institutional settings, and adults with underlying health conditions. 

    The booster shot can be administered at least six months after recipients complete the two-dose series of the Pfizer vaccine. Among the eligible group, the booster doses of Pfizer are currently authorized only for individuals who originally received the Pfizer vaccine. 

    The following are several of the underlying health conditions listed by SJBPH for Pfizer booster eligibility: 

    • Obesity. 

    • Diabetes. 

    • Chronic lung disease. 

    • Significant heart disease. 

    • Chronic kidney disease. 

    • Cancer. 

    • Other underlying health conditions. 

    There are several other groups eligible for a Pfizer booster, including people in institutional settings or at high risk of occupational exposure to COVID-19: 

    • Health care workers. 

    • Teachers and day care staff. 

    • Grocery workers. 

    • People in long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, prisons or other congregate settings. 

    • First responders. 

    Moderately to severely immunocompromised people ages 12 and older continue to be eligible for a third dose of vaccine. 

    For the immunocompromised, additional doses should be administered at least four weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Immunocompromised individuals are advised to seek the same mRNA vaccine that they originally received. If the matching vaccine type is not available, immunocompromised individuals may receive the alternative mRNA vaccine. 

    For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, current eligibility, and details on vaccine clinics and providers, visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/.

    Griffin noted the agency continues to monitor the process of vaccines for younger adolescents aged 5-11 years old, suggesting that a decision could come shortly after Halloween based on the current information.

    Local numbers

    According to SJBPH, Archuleta County’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate was 221.4 cases per 100,000 people Wednesday — down from 235.7 a week prior.

    According to the CDC, Colorado’s seven-day incidence rate was 274.2 Wednesday — up from 267.7 a week prior.

    The U.S.’s one-week rate is 159.3, down from 181.7 a week prior.

    As of Wednesday, SJBPH listed 1,453 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 among Archuleta County residents since late March 2020, up from 1,418 a week prior. 

    Griffin suggested that, while Archuleta County sees more “noise” in terms of fluctuations in the cumulative incidence rate than a larger population would, the county is still in a wave that “started a few weeks after the arrival of the Delta variant in Archuleta County.” 

    The agency showed Archuleta County was at 6 percent positivity Wednesday.

    “It’s really important for people to be fully vaccinated, to get the booster if they’re eligible, wear masks in businesses whether they’re vaccinated or not,” Griffin said, explaining that the goal is to avoid a situation like last year where there was a spike in November and December. “A spike from where we’re at right now is concerning and not what anyone wants.”

    There is one active outbreak in Archuleta County.

    On Sept. 15, an outbreak was identified at Pine Ridge Extended Care Center, with SJBPH reporting four confirmed cases among unvaccinated staff members.

    The first case was on Sept. 6. On Oct. 6, Griffin reported that outbreak includes six staff members, and he noted on Wednesday the count remains the same.

    An outbreak is identified as five cases associated with a single facility in a 14-day period, or two cases in a 14-day period in congregate settings.

    The state’s outbreak information is available at: https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid19-outbreak-data.

    As of Wednesday, 57 percent of Archuleta County’s total population had completed a vaccine series, which is 64 percent of the eligible population (those 12 and older).

    SJBPH’s public health advisory related to COVID-19 can be found at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/SJBPH-Third-Amended-Advisory-10.5.2021.pdf.

    ‘There’s a new meaning to masking up this
    Halloween’

    “Because of the elevated transmission, our hospitals continue to be quite full in our region and across the state,” Griffin said.

    That, he noted, makes it important to have safe and happy holidays.

    Griffin reminded that outdoor activities like trick or treating are safer than indoor events, adding, “This is not the safest time to have a big indoor Halloween gathering with a bunch of different households.”

    He urged people to have a fun and safe Halloween.

    “There’s a new meaning to masking up this Halloween,” he said.

    randi@pagosasun.com