Clinics prepare for expansion of COVID booster eligibility |

Clinics prepare for expansion of COVID booster eligibility

Alex Jokich
Updated: November 17, 2021 06:43 PM
Created: November 17, 2021 05:42 PM

Minnesota is poised to make a big move on booster shots that would make millions of more people eligible for the extra shot. 

According to ABC News, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize booster doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for all adults as early as this week.

The authorization would allow those who received a second dose of the vaccine at least six months ago to be eligible for a booster.

The Minnesota Department of Health said if the federal government doesn't make a decision by the end of the week the state will roll out its own plan to expand booster shots.

Currently, boosters are only available to people 65 and older, those at "high risk," and anyone who originally received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

"Given the very serious circumstances here in Minnesota, we've been communicating with our federal partners that we're preparing to move ahead independently this week to expand booster eligibility if there is no action at the federal level," Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday.

Malcolm said Minnesota is the fastest-growing COVID hotspot in the country, so there is an "urgent need" to boost protection for people as much as possible.

"It's just very frightening how the count is going up and up and up," said Anita Reinitz in Andover, who is concerned about the state's COVID-19 situation and looking forward to getting a booster shot. "I'm very hesitant about going out now because I feel the vaccine has waned, so just to have our lives back is what it really is."

The Minnesota Department of Health said it has advised vaccine providers to begin immediately preparing for expanded booster eligibility. 

Cub Foods told 5 EYEWITNESS News their pharmacies are ready to start giving booster shots as soon as the announcement is made.

Director of Pharmacy Aaron Sapp said their stores ordered extra vaccine doses this week to accommodate the potential for increased demand.

He encourages anyone who wants a booster shot to make an appointment in order to "dramatically reduce wait times."

Allina Health is also preparing for the expected booster shot expansion and plans to start scheduling those doses within the next week or two. 

"The one thing we're struggling with, not unlike many other companies right now, is just staffing and having the staff available to administer these vaccines," explained Kevin Best, Allina's vice president of medical operations for primary care. "I hope people are patient and give us some grace as we're scheduling those out, maybe a little bit farther out, because we're not going to have the capacity to do them all right away."

He recommends people who want a booster shot search for other opportunities as well, such as pharmacies and community clinics.

Best said expanding eligibility will help with the logistics of administering vaccines, as they will no longer have to screen people to make sure they fit the eligibility requirements. 

While booster doses will provide extra protection to people who are already fully vaccinated, he noted the bigger priority is the unvaccinated population.

"We still want to try to get as many people newly vaccinated as possible because the difference in immunity is markedly greater than it is between being vaccinated and boosted," Best said. 

Around 3 million Minnesotans over 18 have a completed vaccine series, according to the "Who's Getting Vaccinated" tab on the data dashboard. Around 734,000 booster doses have already been administered. 

The Minnesota Department of Health provided this statement to 5 EYEWITNESS News about the rollout of booster shots in Minnesota:

"The data remain clear that the COVID vaccines are effective, especially at preventing serious illness and death. The evidence is also increasingly clear that boosters for all adults, given at the appropriate time from the primary vaccination, can help prolong the protection longer and maintain it at a higher level.

We have been in conversation with federal officials about the need for expanding booster eligibility to all adults 18 and up. We are optimistic that this message from Minnesota and other states have been heard, and we welcome reports that the federal government will announce that expansion later this week.

However, given the serious circumstances, we're in here in Minnesota, we are preparing to move independently before the end of the week to make every Minnesota adult eligible for a booster shot. Given the alarming surge in COVID cases that Minnesota is facing as we head indoors for the winter and gather for holidays, this protection is important and timely. We need to do all we can to make sure all Minnesotans have the full benefit of vaccine protection to help themselves, their communities, and our entire state get out of the grip of this fall surge.

On Tuesday, the Department of Health advised vaccine providers that they should immediately begin preparing for expanded booster eligibility, including making any changes needed to their electronic records and scheduling systems so that appointments for booster doses will be available as soon as authorization is given. Vaccine providers currently have a high level of inventory, and we are urging providers to use the usual ordering process to order additional vaccines as needed to expand booster vaccination to all adults 19 and older while also providing primary series vaccines.

The data remain clear that receiving a primary series of COVID-19 vaccines is effective, especially at preventing serious illness and death. While administering booster doses for all adults can help strengthen the protection longer and maintain it at a higher level, the priority remains getting the unvaccinated vaccinated."

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