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Health department to offer updated COVID vaccines to battle newer variants

St. Joseph News-Press - 9/18/2023

Sep. 17—Updated COVID-19 vaccines targeting current variants will soon be available at the St. Joseph Health Department.

The Food and Drug Administration approved and authorized the emergency use of updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna on Monday to help neutralize current variants, such as EG.5 and BA.2.86 and XBB.1.5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker for Missouri recorded an all-time low in weekly new COVID-19 hospital admissions in Missouri with 75 during the week of July 1, 2023. But the number of weekly hospitalizations has been steadily rising since July, and there were 342 hospitalizations during the week of Sept. 2.

St. Joseph Health Director Debra Bradley said the vaccine manufacturers have the vaccines ready to be made, but they usually don't make large quantities until they have approval.

"They're hoping to have it out by the end of the month, but it could be into October before we get it," Bradley said.

The St. Joseph Health Department has a contract with a company that provides the vaccines, and they bill insurance companies, but there will be an option for people who are uninsured through the CDC's Bridge Access Program.

"We will get an allotment of vaccine that we can then distribute to individuals who are uninsured or underinsured," she said. "So, there'll be some criteria for the underinsured. I'm sure it'll come out once the vaccine is made available."

The information given to the St. Joseph Health Department contained the words "limited supply," so health department officials want to make sure they are getting it to those who are most vulnerable. But Bradley said it is recommended that everyone get the latest COVID vaccine.

"If a person has had other COVID vaccines and they're interested, they have to wait two months from their last vaccine," she said. "Many of us haven't had a vaccine or COVID shot for a long time, so we should be able to get it."

Missouri is still far from the peak of 2,982 hospitalizations it had during the week of Jan. 22, 2022. However, Bradley said it is still important to be vaccinated.

Anyone is welcome to call the St. Joseph Health Department to find out if vaccines are available before showing up. CVS and Walgreens are also participating in the Bridge Access Program to provide COVID vaccines at no cost.

"This vaccine targets the specific variant that we're facing right now," she said. "And so, we want to try to minimize the number of people who get sick, the number of people who are hospitalized and the number of people who die. So, we are encouraging people to consider the vaccine so that it doesn't just protect themselves, that it protects those that they live with, and work with, and are around in their community."


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