COVID vaccine options widen; hospitalizations increase

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Between Thursday and Friday morning, Monroe County saw three additional COVID-related hospitalizations. 

Of the five total hospitalizations, two are fully vaccinated, Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner said. He said the majority of hospitalizations, from what he’s been able to see, have been individuals with underlying conditions or old age. 

“We only have 34 cases (in Monroe County) and right now five of those cases are in the hospital, so it’s really a lot,” Wagner said. “Hopefully they’ll be short-term. We’ll see in a couple of days if they’re long-term or if they’re going to be released (soon).” 

However, other COVID-19 county figures are looking well. As he mentioned, Monroe County had 34 active cases as of Friday.

“Let’s hope these lower cases hold. It’s looking good all over the place,” Wagner said, citing other counties are seeing lower numbers as well. 

Wagner said he is hoping these low figures are reflective of COVID declining – not just a lack of people getting tested.

With recent FDA emergency authorization approval of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson “booster” doses, Monroe County is getting ready to roll out additional vaccine clinics, while still meeting Pfizer booster needs as well.

The department is hosting another drive-thru Pfizer booster clinic from 9-11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2 at the fairgrounds and Moderna booster clinics from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 4 and Nov. 10. While the clinics are designed for meeting booster needs, individuals may obtain initial series vaccinations as well. Bring your vaccination card if applicable.

The health department has yet to secure a supply of Johnson & Johnson boosters.

Wagner reiterated recent booster approval guidelines, which state one does not have to get the same brand of booster as their initial series. He recommends those who previously received J&J to obtain a Pfizer or Moderna booster, unless they are set on not getting messenger RNA vaccines. 

“If you get J&J the first time and then you get a second J&J, you still get a booster response, but the studies I’ve seen show that it’s a better response if you use a different brand,” Wagner said. 

With the weather getting colder, Wagner is looking to set up COVID vaccine clinics at Valmeyer’s Rock City. He said he still has to gain approval from Valmeyer as well as other entities, but feels the venue could add extra incentive to get vaccinated. 

“A lot of longtime residents in Monroe County have never seen the inside of Rock City, and it’s worth seeing it just to get a chance to go see it. So make a little bit of an extra drive, get your booster dose and see the inside of Rock City because it’s pretty impressive in there,” Wagner said. 

As of Friday, 54.21 percent (18,612) of Monroe County’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday paved the way for children ages 5-11 to get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The FDA cleared kid-size doses — just a third of the amount given to teens and adults — for emergency use, and up to 28 million more American children could be eligible for vaccinations as early as next week.

On Tuesday, advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make more detailed recommendations on which youngsters should get vaccinated, with a final decision by the agency’s director expected shortly afterwards.

Read more by clicking here.

As Wagner mentioned at last week’s Monroe County Board meeting, some COVID funding was set to end at the end of this year. 

“Our mass vaccination grant funding and contact tracing grant ends in December, but they’re putting out amendments and it looks like they’re going to extend them – at least the mass vaccination part of the funding is going to be into next year,” Wagner said. 

He said this is particularly important as COVID vaccines are administered free of patient charge. 

“(With the extended funding), we should have some money to put on those mass vaccination events and buy supplies and everything else since the (COVID) vaccine obviously is free. We have to have a way to offset the time, the money and the materials, and that’s what that state grant does for us,” Wagner said. 

As the Republic-Times previously reported, there is much to be known regarding natural immunity, but the CDC said early evidence shows it may only last a few months.

“Natural immunity is a strong immunity. To say how long it lasts, there are no good studies out there. I don’t know why,” Wagner said. 

He said additional variants may also impact natural immunity’s effectiveness and also pointed out there is much to be observed regarding how long vaccinations’ protection extends. He said this is why boosters are important.

Monroe County has had 5,286 total cases since the pandemic began. There are 34 active cases and 104 have died. The rest have recovered, although the lasting effects of COVID are still not known.

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