Local officials prepare for guidance on COVID-19 vaccine boosters

COVID-19 Vaccine

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Health Department is now offering a third COVID-19 vaccine dose for people who are immunocompromised.

This comes after a meeting last Friday where officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved and recommended a small subset of the American population move forward with a third shot. The Kent County Health Department says they began giving out the additional dose on Monday.

“This really applies to people who are suffering from some degree of immune deficit. It’s not because you’re older, it’s not because you have heart disease, it’s not because you live in a congregate facility,” said registered nurse Mary Wisinski, who is the immunization program supervisor at the county health department.

Wisinski says since the announcement from the CDC, they’ve gotten many calls from people interested in getting an additional shot, but most of them are not eligible. The CDC only approved the shot for people experiencing the following:

  • Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies
  • Receipt of solid organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy
  • Receipt of CAR T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency like DiGeorge syndrome and Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis blockers and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.

While the health department awaits further CDC guidance before giving booster shots to the rest of the population, they say they’re still working to convince some to get their first doses.

“Our message still is that people need to get those first doses of the COVID vaccine. We all know, and we’ve seen all over the news how the delta variant is becoming the more dominant one. And unless we get people vaccinated, this virus will continue to mutate and I’m afraid we may have an even stronger, vaccine-resistant one in the future,” Wisinski said.

Places like Spectrum Health, which ran the West Michigan Vaccine Clinic at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids in the spring, say it’s too early to comment on a plan to roll out third doses.

Meijer pharmacies, which partnered with the state to also run vaccine clinics, say it’s already administering third doses and will be prepared for the CDC to recommend booster shots for all. So far, Meijer says it has given out 1.8 million doses across their pharmacies.

KCHD says their main goal is to protect the community from a serious surge in cases like the spring and fall of 2020.

“We kind of felt a little bit more free when we could get out this summer and relax ourselves a little bit, but I think we need to get back on our guard,” Wisinski said. “This pandemic is not over.”

KCHD says people who are immunocompromised should check with their primary care physician or call the health department directly to see if they qualify for a third vaccine dose. They’re recommending people who have not been vaccinated at all get their shots. The department says as cases and hospitalizations ramp up, people should mask up in the meantime.

For more information on vaccine appointment availability, head to the health department’s website.

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