Suburban vaccine providers await guidance on boosters

  • COVID-19 vaccine boosters could be available to everyone beginning in mid-September, but representatives of suburban providers like this CVS in Crystal Lake say they are still awaiting guidance from federal and state officials about how to administer those shots.

      COVID-19 vaccine boosters could be available to everyone beginning in mid-September, but representatives of suburban providers like this CVS in Crystal Lake say they are still awaiting guidance from federal and state officials about how to administer those shots. John starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 8/18/2021 6:54 PM

Suburban health departments, pharmacies and hospitals are still awaiting specific guidance from federal and state authorities about how administration of COVID-19 booster shots will be handled.

Local representatives of several vaccine providers said planning to provide booster shots for everyone who received the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can't begin until the third doses are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, likely in the coming days. Then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must issue guidance on how to administer the boosters, local health officials explained.

 

"We are planning for booster shots, but there is nothing to report at this time," said Cook County Department of Public Health spokesman Don Bolger.

The plan to begin a third round of inoculations for those who received mRNA-type vaccines was announced by federal health officials Wednesday. Officials are recommending the booster shots eight months after residents or workers received the second dose.

No booster shot plans have been set for those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Health officials said there isn't enough research yet to support a need for a booster shot of that vaccine, though one will likely be needed.

"Examining numerous cohorts through the end of July and early August, three points are now very clear," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said at a White House briefing Wednesday. "First, vaccine-induced protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time. Second, vaccine effectiveness against severe disease, hospitalization and death remains relatively high. And third, vaccine effectiveness is generally decreased against the delta variant."

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Because inoculations in Illinois peaked in mid-April with providers averaging more than 130,000 doses a day, December will likely see the most demand for booster shots here.

Meanwhile, health officials are providing booster shots to immunocompromised individuals regardless of when they last received a dose. Bolger said suburban Cook County residents who need a ride to get the booster shot can call (833) 308-1988 to schedule a free lift.

Because health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities were among the first to receive vaccinations, they will likely be among the first to receive boosters.

However, many hospital officials say they are awaiting guidance before formulating a booster plan for their staffs.

"We're focused on encouraging team members and the communities we serve to get their first round of vaccines amid the increasing spread of the delta variant," said Advocate Aurora Health spokesman Mike Riopell. "As we have throughout the pandemic, we'll follow official guidance when it's available on booster shots. We will share our plan for how and where patients, community members and our team members can get their booster shots in the coming weeks."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

National pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS were charged with delivering vaccines to residents and workers at long-term care facilities. It's unclear if their services will be used similarly for booster shots.

"As we await further guidance from regulatory agencies, we're fully prepared to play a leading role in providing booster shots," CVS officials said in a statement. "We've administered more than 30 million COVID-19 vaccines across the country, and immediately began offering third doses to immunocompromised individuals when authorized to do so."

Meanwhile, mandated vaccinations are becoming more prevalent. President Joe Biden announced Wednesday nursing homes should require staff vaccinations or risk losing Medicare and Medicaid funds.

Locally, Stevenson High School District 125 officials announced all faculty and staff members must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 or risk termination.

"In mandating vaccinations as a condition of employment at Stevenson, our goal is to maintain the safety of our school community and more quickly return to the teaching and learning experience that our families have come to expect over the years," Superintendent Eric Twadell said.

• The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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