Moderna, J&J boosters now available

Published 2:13 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

The health district is observing another week of reduced COVID-19 cases just as Virginians become eligible for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots, including “mix and match” doses.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), from Monday, Oct. 18, to Monday, Oct. 25, Lunenburg County saw 33 new cases of the virus.

Prince Edward County observed 28 new COVID-19 cases among residents in the last week. Buckingham saw 27 new cases, and Cumberland rose 11 cases. Charlotte County saw 22 new virus cases over the last seven days.

All counties in the Piedmont Health District with the exception of Lunenburg County are currently considered to be trending downward in virus cases. Lunenburg’s COVID cases have been trending upward for 17 days.

Local counties reported three new COVID-related deaths this week including one out of Prince Edward, one out of Cumberland and one out of Charlotte.

Centra Health also saw lowered case numbers in the COVID units of its nearby hospitals this week. On Monday, Oct. 25, Centra was reporting a total of 58 virus patients at its facilities; 51 at Lynchburg General and seven at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville.

Of those 58 cases, 11 were ICU patients (nine of which were actively being ventilated.) Nine ICU patients on Monday were unvaccinated, including seven of those on ventilators, while the remaining two ICU patients, both on ventilators, were fully vaccinated.

A total of 45 of Centra’s 58 cases on Monday were unvaccinated, while the remaining 13 cases were fully vaccinated.

Longwood University in Farmville was reporting three active cases among its campus community as of Sunday, Oct. 24, with a cumulative total of 101 cases since Aug. 15. Hampden-Sydney College was reporting one active case and three individuals quarantining as of its last dashboard update Oct. 20. The college has experienced eight total student cases and three total staff cases this school year.

A press release issued this week from VDH noted on Oct. 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced recommendations for booster shots for certain people who previously received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Virginians became eligible Oct. 22 to receive boosters for the Moderna and J&J shots. Previously, boosters were only approved for those who received an initial two rounds of the Pfizer vaccine.

According to the release, individuals who received either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are now eligible for a single booster dose six months after completion of their initial series if they:

Are 65 years of age and older

Are 18 through 64 years of age and at high risk of severe COVID-19

Are 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2

A single booster shot is recommended at least two months after completion of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine for anyone 18 years of age and up.

On Oct. 20, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of heterologous, or “mix and match,” booster shots for FDA-authorized and approved vaccines.

Following a presentation from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a data analysis and discussion from an FDA vaccine advisory committee, it was determined the known and potential benefits of the use of a single heterologous booster dose outweigh the known and potential risks of their use in eligible populations.

Being able to mix and match booster shots is expected to provide better flexibility at vaccination clinics and allow individuals to seek out a different type of booster vaccine should they have concerns about the initial brand they received.

“VDH has been working with our vaccination partners — pharmacies, healthcare providers, hospitals and other institutions — to prepare for the booster rollout,” Virginia’s State Vaccination Liason Dr. Danny Avula said. “In addition to these vaccination partners, Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) are strategically located across the commonwealth to ensure Virginians will be able to access a booster dose when it’s recommended.  The move by the CDC to allow vaccine recipients to ‘mix and match’ vaccines for their boosters gives Virginians another level of choice in protecting themselves from COVID-19.

“If you decide to get a booster dose by mixing and matching, VDH urges you to consult with your doctor or healthcare provider who can assist you in making the best decision for your own situation. We also stress that all three vaccines authorized for administration in the United States are highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization and death.”

Vaccination rates in each county of the health district, as of Monday, were as follows:

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 47.4%, population with booster shot: 1.2%

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 40.5%, population with booster shot: 1.8%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 47.4%, population with booster shot: 1.8%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 43.6%, population with booster shot: 1.4%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 46.2%, population with booster shot: 2.2%

“I continue to see and admire the multiple ways our community continues to serve and care for those in our community who are more vulnerable or who simply need a helping hand,” Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond said Monday. “Right now, one of the best ways to show our care to others is by getting vaccinated. Thank you to the 51.6% of those age 12 and older who have already been fully vaccinated in the Piedmont district.”

On Monday, Almond highlighted COVID-19 vaccines can be administered together with flu shots, adding that already 5.6% of those 65 years and older in the health district have received their booster or third dose of the COVID vaccine.

She added VDH expects decisions regarding authorization and guidance for COVID-19 vaccination for children aged 5-11 within the next week.

“The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) advisory committee will be discussing vaccination for children aged 5–11 on October 26, 2021. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) will be meeting the following week to provide final guidance.”

Free drive-thru testing is currently available at two weekly VDH sites: Prince Edward Farmville Youth Association (PEFYA) recreational center (2750 Layne Street) Wednesdays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. through Nov. 17 and Buckingham County Library and Community Center (16268 N. James Madison Hwy.) Mondays from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. through Nov.15. VDH currently administers PCR testing with results usually returning 2-3 days after testing.