UNC Health and Orange County clinics are offering COVID-19 booster shots for certain individuals following recent guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has recommended that high-risk individuals get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster shot, according to a Sept. 24 press release.
Individuals must have received the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago and be eligible in accordance with CDC recommendations to receive the booster shot.
The CDC recommends that all individuals age 65 and older, as well as those who are 18 or older and live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions or work or live in high-risk settings, receive the booster shot.
UNC Health is distributing COVID-19 booster shots at some UNC clinics, and some CVS pharmacies in the area are also offering the booster.
Elizabeth Ramsey, the director of clinical business operations at UNC Health, said she recommends people get the COVID-19 booster shot if they are eligible.
“The data is pretty compelling so far, and we anticipate that the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster data will follow that of Pfizer's,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said Orange County residents, particularly those within university communities and UNC Health, will probably have high participation for booster shots. She also said the booster shots can help prevent severe disease.
“Ultimately that is our goal: to decrease the chance that somebody's going to get sick if they do contract COVID-19,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey said most of the booster shots being given through UNC Health are administered at outpatient clinics. UNC Health has decentralized vaccinations across the UNC Health system, specifically at the medical center, she said.
The Orange County Health Department is managing pop-up vaccine clinics where people can receive Pfizer booster shots, Kristin Prelipp, the department's communications manager and public information officer, said in an email.
In Hillsborough, pop-up clinics will be held at the Farmer's Market Pavilion on Oct. 13, Nov. 3 and Nov. 10 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and at the old courthouse on Oct. 29 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
There will also be a pop-up vaccine clinic at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at the Carrboro Farmers' Market on Oct. 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“There are lots of different sites available for patients to find a vaccine provider really close to them,” Ramsey said.
Prelipp said in an email that she wants the booster shots to be convenient and accessible to all and hopes they will be a step in the right direction.
“Of the people that end up at our local hospitals due to COVID-19, the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated,” Prelipp said. “But we do know that there are breakthrough infections of vaccinated people. This booster will help to prevent that.”
Dr. Brian Bramson, an associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at UNC Health, said that as people get the booster shot, the number of hospitalizations will likely decrease.
Bramson said eligible individuals should get a booster shot — which he himself plans to do.
“As a health care worker who does have a certain amount of exposure, yes, I am planning on getting the booster shot,” he said.
Bramson also said the original COVID-19 vaccines seem to be pretty effective so far, but new virus variants may require increased immune protection.
“It is entirely possible that we may have to have booster shots in the future,” Bramson said.
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