Pfizer COVID-19 Booster Shots Now Available In Northeast Ohio

Summit County Public Health has held various vaccination clinics and is now hosting a drive-thru clinic for Pfizer booster shots this week. [Sarah Taylor / WKSU]
Summit County Public Health has held various vaccination clinics and is now hosting a drive-thru clinic for Pfizer booster shots this week. [Sarah Taylor / WKSU]
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Northeast Ohio pharmacies, health departments and health centers are starting to administer Pfizer booster shots to eligible individuals.

Summit County Public Health is offering drive-thru vaccination clinics by appointment only at the health department in Akron on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning this week through Oct. 15, health officials announced Monday. Pharmacies like Giant Eagle, Discount Drug Mart and CVS are scheduling appointments on their websites.

Those who qualify for a booster shot can also call their primary care doctor’s office to schedule the vaccination, but not all health centers will carry it, Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda said.

“Many hospital systems are … busy these days and overwhelmed, so they’re probably not doing a lot of outward-facing vaccine clinics, so your best bet would be your local pharmacies or your local health departments,” Skoda said.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Health is not hosting booster shot clinics at this time, according to a spokesperson. Cleveland Clinic, UH and MetroHealth will begin administering boosters to eligible caregivers and patients soon, according to officials.

“We are not yet scheduling booster doses for the public. We're working out the details & scheduling technology,” Cleveland Clinic spokesperson Andrea Pacetti told Ideastream Public Media via email.

How To Schedule An Appointment

Appointments for the Summit County drive-thru clinic or other providers can be scheduled online using the Ohio Department of Health’s scheduling portal, or by calling 1-833-427-5634. Users will be asked several questions about their qualifications, such as their age, underlying health conditions and whether they live in a long-term care facility.

The other option is to reach out directly to pharmacies like Giant Eagle, Discount Drug Mart and CVS.

People will also be asked which vaccine series they received. Individuals must have previously received the Pfizer two-shot vaccine, as boosters are not yet authorized for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Patients must also be at least six months out from receiving their second Pfizer dose, according to the federal guidance.

At Summit County’s drive-thru booster clinics, staff members will turn people away if they have not reached the six-month threshold, Skoda said.

“If you look at the clinical trials … getting it before six months probably isn’t a good idea because you don’t get the protection,” Skoda said. “One of the reasons you wait between vaccine is because you give your body a chance to react and build antibodies, and you want to make sure you can do that before you hit it again with another challenge.” 

Health officials will also turn people away that did not receive the Pfizer vaccine, Skoda added. There is not enough clinical evidence to support mixing vaccines, she said.

Moderna and J&J have both submitted data regarding booster shots to the Food and Drug Administration, she said. People who received those vaccines are still well-protected without a booster, Skoda said.

“Moderna seems to be holding its own … and the one thing it does really well is keep you from getting really sick. And that’s what all three of [the vaccines] do,” she added. “So I tell people to just relax. J&J and Moderna boosters will be here just like the Pfizer came.”

Additionally, people who are interested in receiving an influenza vaccination are able to receive the flu shot and Pfizer booster at the same time because the vaccines do not contain live viruses, Skoda said.

The Summit County health department has not yet received flu vaccine shipments, but they plan to host combination Pfizer booster and flu shot clinics in the future, she added.

Who Is Eligible For a Booster?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued official recommendations for the booster shot Friday, and ODH released its guidance for providers over the weekend.

Per the guidance, anyone 65 years and older, residents in long-term care settings, and people age 50 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions “should” receive the shot.

Additionally, people aged 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions or who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure due to their occupation or living in a long-term care setting “may” receive the booster shot.

The qualifying underlying medical conditions are listed on the CDC’s website and include individuals with health conditions such as cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as kidney transplant recipients and individuals who smoke.

At-risk employees include front-line health care workers and teachers, according to the guidance.

Skoda encourages individuals who qualify for the booster shot but are unsure about getting it to talk to their primary care physician, especially those who are in the younger age groups and do not have an underlying medical condition.

“If you ask me personally, I’d probably say you should get it, just to get it over with, and then you know you’re protected … but again, I hearken back to - the three vaccines that work so well,” Skoda said. “There’s nothing wrong with waiting a few weeks or month, if you want to, and then doing it.”

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