Health

MCHD gears up for booster shots

Green light on extra doses expected from feds

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The Montgomery County Health Department is gearing up to deliver booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as the green light comes from federal health regulators.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was expected to approve third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Wednesday for seniors and people at high risk for severe illness. Official recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must follow before the shots are given out.

“We’re waiting on what happens yet this week. All we can do is really prepare,” health department administrator Amber Reed told members of the Montg domery County Health Board on Tuesday.

The department is already seeing high demand for COVID-19 shots as cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant continue to rise. The staff has administered more than 800 doses since the beginning of August.

Nearly 47% of eligible county residents ages 12 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard. The rate has been increasing by about 1% per week, county health officer Dr. Scott Douglas said.

Even more demand for shots is expected when vaccines are approved for children as young as five, which could happen around Halloween. Third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are currently only available to immunocompromised Americans.

The county reported another 39 infections Wednesday, bringing to 5,805 the total number of COVID-19 cases. No additional deaths were reported.

The daily average of new cases stood at 35 last week, up from two in May.

“Montgomery County is in a period of high transmission, and so folks should be wearing a mask when they’re out in public. That’s not happening,” said Douglas, citing confusion over the change in mask guidance from the CDC.

The spike in cases continues to strain hospital systems. One day last week, six emergency room patients at Franciscan Health Crawfordsville were waiting to be admitted with no beds available, Douglas said.

Hospitalizations statewide aren’t expected to peak until late November, according to projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“Things are unfortunately going to get worse before they get better,” Douglas said.

Meanwhile, the health board is putting out the call to fill an open seat. Any resident can be appointed regardless of political party. The term is four years.

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