Local officials weigh in as FDA approves Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots

Your Local Vaccine HQ

The FDA Advisory panel approves the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson booster shots for those who are eligible.

UPMC hosted a press conference Friday to answer questions about COVID-19 boosters. However, UPMC officials say their main concern isn’t about booster shot availability.

Leaders answered questions about the new FDA guidance for COVID-19 booster vaccines this afternoon. One UPMC representative says while Moderna and Johnson and Johnson boosters will soon become available, health care providers are focused on another vaccine initiative.

“Get those who haven’t yet decided to get fully vaccinated, get them to the point where they’re choosing the vaccine and getting the vaccine,” said Donald M. Yealy, MD, Senior Vice President at UPMC.

UPMC representatives says while boosters are safe and effective, it’s more important for unvaccinated people to get the initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“That is far and away the most important job right now, as opposed to booster doses for most of the population,” Yealy said.

Moderna and Johnson and Johnson booster shots will not be available to those who are eligible until the CDC also approves the boosters.

“We’re not quite there yet, as it relates to rolling out those boosters for our community. That recommendation still has to go to the CDC and, ultimately, be signed off on,” said Stephen Henderson, Director of Pharmacy at AHN Saint Vincent.

Representatives from local hospitals say they want higher risk individuals to be protected from the virus as we enter the colder months.

“You may have some waning immunity, which again, would prompt you to potentially get a booster as we kind of enter this respiratory holiday season where folks are going to be gathering indoors,” Henderson said.

Henderson said AHN Saint Vincent has administered hundreds of Pfizer boosters in the last three workers. AHN representatives echoing the same sentiment of getting unvaccinated people their first doses.

“Those are the individuals who, when they contract COVID, are developing more severe disease and, ultimately, are driving the hospitalizations that we’re seeing here in Erie County.” Henderson said.

Earlier this week, the Erie County Executive stated the increasing number of hospitalizations in Erie County could lead to a mask mandate.

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