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West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Demystifies Booster Advice, Clinics Being Scheduled [Updated]

COVID vaccine clinic at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Photo credit: Hugh McQuaid, CTNewsJunkie.com (we-ha.com file photo)

With booster shots now available for all three COVID-19 vaccines, but differing eligibility, West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District Director Aimee Krauss has created a chart to simplify the advice. [Updated, Oct. 27]

By Ronni Newton

Information about COVID-19 vaccination continues to be released by myriad agencies, at a fast and furious pace, resulting in confusion for many members of the community who are anxious to find out if they are eligible for a third dose or a booster shot (which are not exactly the same thing), wondering if they should get another shot, or aren’t sure if they need another jab to be considered fully vaccinated.

Aimee Krauss, health director for the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District, has created an easy-to-understand graphic which demystifies what can be an overwhelming barrage of advice.

What’s a third dose?

Third doses were approved several months ago for individuals who are immunocompromised and previously received two doses of either a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, Krauss said. That includes those who are cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, and others with moderately to severely weakened immune systems based and meet specific criteria as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Third doses of both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine are full doses, Krauss said.

The Health District has been giving third doses of the Moderna vaccine to those who are eligible since they were approved in late summer, Krauss said.

What are boosters?

Booster shots are now available for many more people who have already considered fully vaccinated, meaning they have received two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer boosters are a full dose, while Moderna boosters are a half dose.

For those who are already fully vaccinated with either Pfizer or Moderna and are over age 65, between 50 and 64 but with underlying medical conditions, or ages 18-49 but working in an industry such as education or health care where they are at increased risk of exposure, a booster is recommended at least 6 months after the last shot was received.

Anyone who received a J&J shot at least two months ago is also eligible for a booster shot of either the J&J vaccine – which is a full dose – or the full dose Pfizer booster, or the half dose Moderna booster.

Mixing and matching of booster shots is now permitted for those who previously received a full series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Do I need a booster?

“I’m recommending that people get their booster dose, especially if you are on the front lines,” Krauss said. That includes individuals who are working in any health care capacity or in the schools. Even though the vaccination rate is high in Connecticut and the positive case rates are low, there are still unvaccinated people around who could spread the virus, she said.

If you’re eligible, Krauss thinks getting your booster shot is a good idea.

Krauss said the decision about what vaccine to get as a booster is really an individual choice, including for those who received the one-shot J&J vaccine.

Am I still fully vaccinated even without a booster?

Krauss said she’s recently been asked what it means to be fully vaccinated. As of now that term applies to those who have received two doses of either Pfizer or Moderna, or a single J&J shot.

“If you choose not to get a booster shot are you still fully vaccinated? Right now, yes, but that could change,” Krauss said.

Clinics, and other provider options

A large number of West Hartford Public Schools teachers and staff members received the J&J vaccine during clinics held in March. Krauss said the Health District will be offering holding clinics where those individuals can received Moderna boosters. Vaccines are on order, and Krauss said the clinics will likely be held at schools as well as in the Town Hall auditorium beginning the week of Nov. 8.

Anyone eligible who doesn’t want to wait can also schedule their booster shots at another provider.

“211 is still a great resource for people who are looking for a COVID vaccine,” Krauss said.

Teachers and staff who were vaccinated at Moderna clinics the Health District held later in March and in April are not yet eligible for boosters.

Vaccines for kids

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel on Tuesday recommended a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5-11, and it’s likely that they will be fully approved by next week and an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) issues.

The state Department of Public Health said in an announcement Tuesday afternoon that the next steps are a meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Nov. 2 or 3, followed by a recommendation to the CDC director.

“If all recommendations and approvals go smoothly, Connecticut will begin administration of COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5 through 11 on Thursday, Nov. 4,” the DPH announcement said.

Krauss said Tuesday that she was hoping to have clinics scheduled for early- to mid-November, and on Wednesday announced that through a partnership with the Health District, the UConn Outpatient Pavilion has set aside appointment times for children aged 5 to 11 who are West Hartford and Bloomfield students. The times are:

  • Friday, Nov. 12, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Friday, Nov. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Families can schedule appointments after Nov. 4 by calling 860-679-5589. The address is UConn Outpatient Pavilion, 263 Farmington Ave., Farmington, CT 06030

West Hartford metrics

CT.gov

“I think we’re in a good spot,” Krauss said. The vaccination rate in West Hartford is high, and the COVID positivity rate is low.

According to the most recent data released by the state, as of Oct. 20, 80.88% of town residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Krauss said 76.05% of the town’s entire population – which includes those who are still too young to receive a shot – are fully vaccinated.

Broken down by age groups, the percentage of those who are fully vaccinated/have received at least one dose, as of Oct. 20, is:

  • Ages 12-17, 86.92%/92.42%
  • Ages 18-24, 82.36%/90.19%
  • Ages 25-44, 85.9%/91.11%
  • Ages 45-64, 85.68%/89.54%
  • Ages 65+, 98.9%/100%

Flu shots, COVID testing

Krauss also urges the public to get their flu shot, and said additional clinics are being planned in West Hartford.

Flu shots will be administered at a Public Safety Day planned for Saturday, Nov. 13, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Elmwood Community Center. Anyone ages 4 and up is eligible for a flu shot. Another family clinic in West Hartford will also be announced shortly, Krauss said.

Flu shots are also available through medical providers and at pharmacies. Flu shots can also be obtained at the same time as COVID-19 boosters.

For anyone looking for COVID-19 PCR tests, Krauss said free testing is available, with no appointment, at 1161 Albany Ave. (corner of Woodland Street) in Hartford. Parking is available at the King’s Chapel Church of God on Woodland Street. Testing is available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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