Vaccine providers prep for more jabs

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HANCOCK COUNTY — COVID-19 vaccine providers in the county are preparing to give more shots now that all adults are eligible for boosters.

The federal government on Friday opened COVID-19 booster shots to all adults and took the extra step of urging people 50 and older to seek one, aiming to ward off a winter surge as coronavirus cases rise even before millions of Americans travel for the holidays.

Until now, Americans faced a confusing list of who was eligible for a booster that varied by age, their health and which kind of vaccine they got first. The Food and Drug Administration authorized changes to Pfizer and Moderna boosters to make it easier.

Under the new rules, anyone 18 or older can choose either a Pfizer or Moderna booster six months after their last dose. For anyone who got the single-dose Johnson &Johnson vaccine, the wait already was just two months. And people can mix-and-match boosters from any company.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had to agree before the new policy became official late Friday. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky endorsed a recommendation from her agency’s scientific advisers that — in addition to offering all adults a booster — had stressed that people 50 and older should be urged to get one.

About 9,000 Hancock County residents have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster, according to data from the Indiana Department of Health.

The Hancock County Health Department is providing Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson &Johnson COVID-19 vaccine boosters. Brittany Cecil, a public health nurse with the department, said appointments are preferred but walk-ins are accepted. Appointments can be made by calling the department at 317-477-1125, calling 211 or by visiting ourshot.in.gov.

“We are averaging about 120 patients a day,” Cecil said, adding the majority are for boosters. She also said the department has been seeing an average of about 30 COVID-19 vaccine recipients a day in the 5-11 age group, which recently became eligible.

Dave Bush, pharmacist and owner of Medicap Pharmacy in Greenfield, said his facility has been offering Johnson &Johnson and Moderna vaccines as well as boosters for both.

“For Moderna it’s been extremely strong,” Bush said of booster participation. He added it seems to be less so for Johnson &Johnson boosters, possibly because those who went with J&J in the first place were drawn to it because it’s a one-dose series, making recipients less likely to want to return.

Bush foresees a smooth transition now that boosters are available for all adults.

“We can expand and move forward pretty quickly,” he said, adding that’s one of the advantages of being an independent pharmacy free of corporate structures. He said he also has plenty of employees who can administer vaccinations. “We’re pretty flexible and can adjust to increased demand fairly quickly given the situation.”

Tim Livesay, director of pharmacy for Hancock Regional Hospital, said the hospital is referring those seeking boosters to the health department and local pharmacies and clinics that are vaccinating. The hospital did administer COVID-19 boosters to its employees, however, during recent annual influenza vaccinations.

Pharmacy chains throughout Hancock County are offering COVID-19 vaccine boosters as well. More information about locations and signing up for appointments is available at ourshot.in.gov.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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