COVID-19 Booster Shots Coming Soon To Northeast Ohio
Updated: 5:26 p.m., Friday, Sept. 24, 2021
Thousands of Northeast Ohioans will soon be able to receive a COVID-19 booster shot at their doctor’s office, local pharmacy or health department, according to health officials.
CVS announced that its pharmacies will offer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster shot to eligible populations beginning Friday, September 24. Area hospitals plan to start vaccinating some healthcare workers in the next few days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday endorsed booster shots for older people or otherwise vulnerable Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems.
The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected and extended the guidance to include people ages 18 to 64 years, healthcare workers, teachers and others who have a job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.
While some people waited weeks for appointments to open up when the COVID-19 vaccines first came out, distribution will be simpler this time around, said Dr. Amy Edwards, pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals.
“I think it’s going to be a lot more open,” she said. “There’s so much vaccine available now … I mean there might be, here and there, that CVS is out for a day, or this spot filled up, but it’s not going to be everywhere, all the time, all at once.”
Providers are still waiting on additional guidance from the CDC about the distribution of the booster shots, Dr. Edwards added. Over the next week or so, eligible patients should be able to schedule at their doctor’s office, local pharmacy or health department, she said.
“You just call them up and say 'hey, can I get my booster?'” Edwards said. “Because that’s how it worked for the immune-compromised people, right? ... It was no big deal, they just went and got their third shot.”
Cleveland-area hospitals have already been administering boosters to immunocompromised patients and will begin transitioning to include the newly authorized groups, officials said.
UH, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth will begin offering vaccinations to eligible front-line employees in the coming days, officials said.
MetroHealth patients who are 65 and older and received the Pfizer vaccine more than 6 months ago can now get a booster shot at the health system’s retail pharmacies, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Cleveland Clinic officials are still working out the details of the hospital system’s booster rollout logistics but will be able to schedule eligible patients within the next week, a spokesperson said.
Outside of Northeast Ohio, eligible individuals will be able to schedule an appointment through the Ohio Department of Health's online scheduling portal or by calling 1-833-427-5634 to find a nearby provider, state officials said in a news release Thursday.
Ohio’s booster shot rollout is already underway, as individuals with weakened immune systems became eligible to receive a third dose last month.
More than 3,500 providers across the state will offer the booster shots, ODH director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said in the state’s news release.
“We have been diligently working with our vaccine providers to ensure that there are abundant opportunities to receive COVID-19 vaccine boosters in Ohio,” Vanderhoff said. “There is ample supply of vaccine for boosters, as well as first and second doses, for Ohioans.”
Those who are interested in a booster shot will be asked to meet the eligibility qualifications, but are not required to show proof, according to the release.
While people will likely not be turned away if they attempt to receive a booster before reaching six months out from their Pfizer shots, Edwards said it is not necessary to receive one earlier than recommended. People are still well-protected from their first two doses, but immunity gradually wanes over time, she said.
Receiving a booster too close to the initial doses may also increase a person’s risk for serious side effects, she said.
“Knowing the way the immune system works, knowing the way the human body works, having that longer length of time between exposures probably would make the risk of those more severe, but rare side effects … would be less,” she added. “Why risk the side effects when the two doses seem to be working just fine?”
Moderna applied for booster authorization for its vaccine Sept. 1, and Johnson & Johnson recently submitted its data for approval as well.