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WNC Public Health Official Answers COVID-19 Booster Rollout Questions

BPR News
Buncombe County Health staff administer COVID Pfizer booster shots at the drive-thru booster clinic at Biltmore Church Arden-Campus.

Several health departments  and vaccine providers across Western North Carolina are rolling out the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot  to people 65 and older and others now eligible.  Buncombe, Henderson, and Haywood Jackson,  Madison, and McDowell counties are among those offering the booster shot.  Meantime,  there are lots of questions about just who is qualified to get the extra dose.

To get some answers, BPR’s Helen Chickering talked with Buncombe County’s Public Health Emergency Preparedness Director Fletch Tove. 

HC: Who is qualified for the COVID-19 booster?

FT: So, under the current guidance for Pfizer booster, it needs to be someone who's received their first and second dose of Pfizer. And there's a couple of criteria. One is that they're 65 and older and has been at least six months since they were fully vaccinated with the first and second dose. Also, people who have a high chance of  severe consequences of COVID-19,  or somebody whose workplace puts them at increased risk of transmission qualify as well. It’s  all self-attestation. So, if you come to a vaccine site, you can say that you find yourself at increased risk through your workplace, or at risk of a severe consequence. You do need to be previously vaccinated with the first and second dose and six months since that

HC: What do people need to bring?                                                                                                      

FT: It’s helpful if you could bring your vaccination card that way, it's just a quick check-in. If you don't have your vaccine card and you were vaccinated previously in North Carolina, we can look that up in the state system pretty easily. We know a lot of people went out of state to get the first and second doses. So, if you don't have your vaccine card in your out-of-state, we can still have you self-attest and come through. So if you don't have anything, we'll figure it out for you. But ideally when you drive up, you have your vaccine card ready, and that makes things go really fast.

HC: Who, based on vaccine history, is qualified for a booster?                                                           

Credit Lenoir Rhyne University
Fletch Tove, Buncombe County Emergency Preparedness Director

FT: So currently as the guidance stands, you can't switch between vaccine regimens. This is only a Pfizer booster. In the future, there may be some guidance that allows you to switch between the different vaccine. I know Moderna and J&J are also seeking approval eventually for their boosters as well. But right now, at this site, we're only doing Pfizer regimen boosters.

I do want to encourage everyone though - many of you may have gotten your first and second dose with Buncombe county public health, but now there's so many other providers in the community. You don't have to come back to us for your booster. You can go to any provider -  anybody who has Pfizer can administer that booster.

Beginning October 1st,  Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and UNC Asheville are partnering with FEMA to offer COVID-19 and boosters on the UNCA campus. 

To find a COVID booster clinic near you  - go  to www.myspot.nc.gov.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.