HASTINGS – South Heartland District Health Department (SHDHD) and area vaccine providers are finalizing local protocols and documentation so they may administer booster doses of Moderna and Janssen vaccines to interested South Heartland residents within the next several days. This follows the approval by the FDA and release of recommendations for boosters by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) last week. Pfizer boosters were approved in late September.
SHDHD executive director Michele Bever said the health department was pleased that booster doses are now approved for all three vaccine products. “The CDC’s recommendations for a booster dose of COVID-19 mean that thousands of South Heartland residents who are newly eligible to receive a booster shot will benefit from additional protection,” she said.
For individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the following groups are eligible for a booster shot at 6 months or more after the second dose of their initial series:
- 65 years and older
- Age 18+ who live in long-term care settings
- Age 18+ who have underlying medical conditions
- Age 18+ who work or live in high-risk settings
For individuals who received the single-dose regimen of Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) COVID-19 vaccine, booster doses are recommended for those 18 and older and who were vaccinated two or more months ago.
Bever said the booster recommendations allow for “mix and match” of vaccine products based on availability and personal preference. “Once someone is eligible for a booster, he or she may choose to get a booster dose with the same product, or with a different available COVID-19 vaccine,” Bever said. She encouraged residents to check SHDHD’s vaccine webpage at southheartlandhealth.org to find out where and when COVID-19 vaccine is being administered.
While booster dose approval is good news for eligible residents, the health department is continuing to encourage others to take their first step and get the initial COVID-19 vaccine. “Approximately 25,000 of our 45,000 residents are not fully vaccinated, which means they are more likely to become infected, more likely to be hospitalized and more likely to die due to COVID-19 compared with those who are fully vaccinated,” Bever said.
Bever reported the health district logged 120 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases last week (the week ending October 23) and received another 40 cases so far in the present week. The cumulative total since the beginning of the pandemic is 6,375 confirmed cases in the four-county district.
The rate of new cases (confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days) has remained in the high (red) level of community transmission. For the four-county district, the 7-day rate was 228 cases/100K on October 26. Overall positivity increased to 9.7% this week, which is substantial community transmission, in the orange level. Community positivity (which excludes test results from regular surveillance testing in long-term care facilities) rose to 25.9% (red level: high transmission) and community transmission in the district’s four counties ranged from 23% to 36%.
“SHDHD’s local COVID-19 Advisory will continue to remain in effect for our counties while community transmission levels remain high, as indicated by both the case rate and community positivity metrics,” Bever said.
According to SHDHD’s Hospital Data dashboard, South Heartland hospitals reported there were thirteen COVID inpatients (36% of all inpatients) with one COVID patient requiring a ventilator as of October 26. In addition, available staffed intensive care unit (ICU) beds dropped to 28.6% in South Heartland hospitals.
Bever reported another COVID-19 death had been confirmed bringing the cumulative deaths to 97 for the health district. Over the course of the pandemic, 5% of the COVID-19 deaths have been individuals in their 40s and 50s, 37% were age 60-79 and 58% were age 80 or older.
“The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. More than 20,000 residents of our four counties have completed a one- or two-dose COVID-19 vaccination series and are benefiting from that protection,” Bever said. “It’s not too late to get your first and second COVID-19 shots.”
South Heartland’s vaccine webpage, southheartlandhealth.org, provides a list of locations offering COVID-19 vaccine in the South Heartland District and which vaccine products are offered at each site. The list of vaccine providers is updated frequently to include new times, dates, whether walk-ins are accepted and, if needed, how to make an appointment at each site. Bever said many health care providers in the district are also offering COVID-19 vaccine to their patients and that residents should consider getting their COVID-19 vaccine and flu shot at the same visit.
SHDHD is holding weekly walk-in COVID vaccination clinics on Wednesdays through the month of December (excluding November 24), from 5-7 pm, at the west end of the Allen’s building, 1115 W. 2nd Street in Hastings. Families are encouraged to bring their children age 12 and above (minor children must be accompanied by parent or guardian). Others are also welcome. Enter at Allen’s west door; masks are required.
Bever encourages residents to contact their personal doctor or the health department if they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, additional doses for immunocompromised individuals, booster doses, or COVID-19 testing. Contact South Heartland District Health Department at 402-462-6211 or 877-238-7595.
Bever said people looking for COVID-19 testing may refer to the SHDHD website, southheartlandhealth.org, to find a list of testing sites, types of tests offered, and hours when testing is available.