Second booster available for some

Published 11:22 am Thursday, April 7, 2022

COVID-19 cases were back down in much of the health district this week as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced immunocompromised residents and those over 50 may be eligible for a second booster dose of the vaccine.

According to the latest available data obtained from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), the majority of counties in the Piedmont Health District saw their number of reported COVID-19 cases drop this week.

From the period of Wednesday, March 27, to Saturday, April 2, Prince Edward County saw seven new reported cases of the virus. Buckingham reported two new COVID-19 cases, and Cumberland saw five new cases. Charlotte was up by three cases, and Lunenburg saw one new reported COVID-19 case.

COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths were also down this week. From March 27 to April 2, Prince Edward reported one new virus-related death and five hospitalizations. Buckingham reported zero COVID-related deaths and two hospitalizations, and Cumberland reported one death and nine hospitalizations. In Charlotte County, VDH recorded one new death and one hospitalization, and in Lunenburg County, one new COVID-related death and four new hospitalizations were recorded.

As of data obtained Monday, April 4, every county in the Piedmont Health District was ranked “low” on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels tool which helps officials determine which counties are safe to go mask-free. While people can choose to mask at any time, residents in a low-ranking county are not specifically recommended to wear face masks. The CDC recommends everyone, no matter their county’s ranking, stay up to date with vaccinations and get tested if presenting symptoms of the virus.

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting zero active cases of the virus in its campus community as of Sunday, April 3. Hampden-Sydney College was also reporting zero active cases and zero individuals quarantining as of its latest update Friday, April 1.

The good news kept coming this week with continued lower COVID-related hospitalizations at Centra hospitals. Per its latest update Friday, April 1, Centra reported nine total COVID patients across its Lynchburg, Bedford and Southside Hospitals, two of which were being treated in the ICU. No Centra COVID patients were actively being vented as of Friday.

Earlier last week, the FDA announced its authorization of a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for older adults and certain immunocompromised individuals.

Per the authorization, which was later recommended by the CDC, a second booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna may now be administered to individuals over 50 who received their first booster dose of any authorized COVID-19 vaccine at least four months prior.

A second booster dose of Pfizer may be administered to individuals age 12 or older with certain kinds of immunocompromised conditions provided those patients received their booster at least four months ago. Per the FDA, these are people who have undergone solid organ transplants or who are living with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise.

A second booster dose of Moderna may also be administered at least four months after the first booster dose of any authorized COVID vaccine for individuals 18 years of age and older with the same kinds of immunocompromise.

On March 29, the CDC updated its recommendations to be in line with the FDA’s authorization of the above, adding that adults who received a primary vaccine booster dose of J&J at least four months ago may now receive a second booster dose using Pfizer or Moderna.

On Monday, April 4, Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond pointed to the vaccine’s help in protecting residents from hospitalization as a sign those who fall into the above categories should consider getting their second booster.

Data obtained from the CDC suggests vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19-associated hospitalization during the delta and omicron variants was 31% after one Johnson & Johnson (J&J) doses, 67% after two J&J doses, 78% after one J&J and one mRNA dose and 90% after three mRNA doses (either Pfizer or Moderna.)

“Last week the FDA authorized and the CDC provided a recommendation allowing the severely immunocompromised, those who had received two J&J vaccine shots, or those over age 50 to receive a second vaccine booster of either Pfizer or Moderna,” Almond noted. “For the most vulnerable who are immunocompromised, this is an important way to continue to shore up defenses against a severe health threat.  For those who received two doses of the J&J vaccine, the latest CDC data shows ongoing fair protection against hospitalization, but adding another booster of Pfizer and Moderna would likely meaningfully decrease that chance of being hospitalized.”

Almond said for those over 50, considering a second booster is really a personal choice.

“Right now, the evidence shows that three mRNA shots of either Pfizer or Moderna give very good protection against hospitalization and death,” she said. “But you may have some individual vulnerabilities that do tip the scales towards getting that second booster. Talk with your health provider.”

Almond emphasized that what does remain consistent is that initial vaccination and a booster dose are important and continue to display good protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death as a result of the virus.

“COVID-19 will be with us for the long run. It will ebb and peak. It will likely eventually infect most of us. But vaccination changes the game and decreases the threat. It is safe. It is effective. Let’s use the tools we have to stay healthy and focused on the promise of the spring ahead.”

Vaccination rates in each county of the health district, as of Monday, were as follows:

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 45.3%, population with booster shot: 23.3%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 55.8%, population with booster shot: 28.3%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 51.9%, population with booster shot: 24.4%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 54.7%, population with booster shot: 25.4%

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 57.2%, population with booster shot: 28.5%

The Piedmont Health District will offer a free COVID-19 vaccination clinic Thursday, April 7 from 4 to 6:30 p.m.at the Farmville Farmer’s Market, located at 213 North Street.

The clinic will offer first, second, additional primary and booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccines at no cost to the public. This clinic will be held outdoors so dress appropriately for the weather.

Walk-ins are welcome, but to make an appointment, visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/ or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1).