WHEELING – Studies are underway to determine whether a COVID-19 vaccine booster will be needed to fight variant strains of the virus, and a local health official says it seems likely a vaccine could be needed as soon as possible. ‘autumn.
Wheeling-Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble said on Monday they were told several months ago by the state and the Centers for Disease Control that a review was underway to determine if a reminder would be needed. Gamble said the problem was the time it took to determine whether a booster was needed, compounded by the possibility that variant strains of COVID warrants an additional dose.
Gamble said he believes a booster would likely be needed, in order to protect against variant strains, at the very least.
“What we’re seeing right now is that things are pretty stable, (protection) being in the top 90% for Moderna and Pfizer (vaccines),” Gamble said. “If variants are introduced, you could say we need a booster because of the variant strains. This gives more protection, and the population would be better off, in terms of responding to additional epidemics. “
Gamble said vaccines, such as those for measles, mumps and rubella, can exist and have been around for years before a booster was needed; in the case of the MMR vaccine, it took more than 20 years for measles to reappear in the 1990s.
” This could take a while. We were anticipating a notification relatively soon, if we needed any reminders, in order to be able to prepare mass clinics ”, Gamble said. “We understand that the studies are still ongoing. … It’s a little different (from MMR). We’re responding to a pandemic, so at this point it’s a matter of setting up a booster vaccination program relatively quickly, if necessary.
“In my opinion, that will be necessary for a booster vaccine, and it could be as early as this fall, or much later, depending on how the virus in the vaccine we received responds to it. At the moment, things are looking very good. But with the Delta, UK and Brazil introductions (COVID variants), it may come down to a decision to recall based on variant strains. “
Gamble said he believes the variant strains will likely be the impetus to start a booster program. He said that although it had been a few days since Ohio County reported a new case of COVID – the website reported seven days between two individual cases on June 10 and June 17, and another positive reported on Monday. morning.
However, Gamble said additional COVID variants have recently been identified in previously positive individuals.
“It seems that we are identifying more and more what we are identifying, in particular the British variant”, Gamble said. “I think that will lead us to say that we will have to do a recall campaign.”
He added that the infrastructure is already in place for local health agencies to deploy mass vaccination clinics if the need arises.
However, there are still many questions between a smooth roll-out, for example whether a company-made booster can be safely given to someone whose first vaccine was from someone else, and age concerns.
“It’s not just, ‘We need it and so we’re going to do it.’ Just like the initial rollout, there are a lot of little issues that make mass vaccination a bit difficult ”, he said. “We have a lot of questions. Can any vaccine be used? What is the age? What is the dosage? What is the spacing?
The spacing issue, Gamble said, involved the need to use the national vaccine database to identify how long ago a client had received their initial vaccine, which some sources, such as some pharmacies, did not. not contributed, which is further complicated by the loss of their vaccination card.
“There are a lot of cards out there, people call us to replace them when they are lost” he said. “We have the national database, but not all participating immunization programs are dumped into the database. It’s gonna be more: ‘Remember when you got it? More than three months? You can have it.’
“Deploying a recall campaign is not easy; we did that more recently in the 90s. We were responding to many measles outbreaks, and the CDC said the recommendation was to do a recall. At that time, because there was a requirement for schools, it had to be incorporated into the vaccinations required for the start of the school year. When you look at this, it’s going to be more of a challenge. It’s not back to school, but a lot of people have received this vaccine. To be protected, you need to give a lot of vaccines. “
In addition, when the booster shots are rolled out, healthcare providers will need to consider who is coming for their first doses of vaccine and also incorporate them into the booster schedule.
On the plus side, Gamble said, booster vaccines should be available in most common places in the county, such as pharmacies, Health Right and other places where the vaccine can currently be obtained, rather than being limited. to a county effort.