WHEELS – Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots for kids ages 5 to 11 are on their way. It is also expected that the vaccine will soon be available to children under 5 years of age. Both of these developments are likely to increase the demand for vaccines.
Ohio County Health Administrator Howard Gamble expects the health department will see increased demand for booster shots in the coming weeks. The FDA announcement of booster approval came last week, while the Centers for Disease Control reported on the same parameter on Thursday.
Gamble said the health department already stocks the vaccine to meet demand once the approval is complete and information such as dosage is announced.
“What we’re all waiting for, clinics and health departments across the country, are the details,” Gamble said. “What is the dose, what is the schedule. We pre-ordered a juvenile vaccine, which is a little different, so we have it in. We just received it. We need these details before we start.”
Gamble said it was fine to put up with youth boosters, as the health department is currently experiencing a greater influx of people getting their first or second boosters.
“We’re expecting a slight increase with the booster for 5- to 11-year-olds, and this is an ideal time,” he said. “This is a booster. As we enter the summer months, children will be a little freer – (their parents) will be able to drive down to the clinic or to Wheeling Health Right, the county health department or the pharmacies to get there.”
Gamble said they are likely to be able to meet the demand for boosters in the health department building. In earlier times of greater demand, the health department held daily clinics at The Highlands in a building that had stood empty.
However, the building that was previously used is now under contract with another unit.
“It’s not an option right now,” he said. “… We can handle the volume here. We did it at the beginning of the pandemic with quite a few people. “
Looking ahead, however, Gamble was somewhat concerned about the amount of patients receiving vaccines for their younger children, younger than 5 years.
“What we want more of a challenge with is when they announce lower age vaccines,” Gamble continued. “During the meeting (Thursday) with the CDC and (the Advisory Committee on Vaccination Practices) they announced that they received data for the review of vaccines for children under the age of 5. This may take a while; our focus will be on first booster, second booster and now first booster for kids 5-11.
“We are waiting for that decision; in terms of volume, we are in a good place. The volunteers are still working with us. We have enough vaccines and supplies. We are fine.”
In a broader look at COVID, dozens of COVID cases continue to be reported daily in Ohio County, ranging from between 50 and 80 active cases over the past week. Gamble said, as before, that the true number of cases in the county is likely to be significantly higher than reported due to a preponderance of home tests that are not included in official figures.
“What is being reported is fantastic and they are able to see that we are moving forward. It is in small waves, locally, while nationally it is in bigger waves, with an increase in subvariants of omicron, He said. “What we can trace on the website are numbers from clinics and laboratories. … What we do not see are the home test kits, or the person who correctly assumes: ‘I have the symptoms, I stay at home and am back after five or 10 days when I’m done with self-insulation. ‘
“We do not see it, so no matter what number shows up on DHHR, you have to double or even triple it to see what’s in the community. We just do not know,” he added. “The test kits are out there, through the federal government, are out there, the test kits from CVS and Walgreens are available. We do not track them and they should not be reported to the county. We do not know what the actual amount of positives are as we did this time last year. “
Gamble explained that the inability to report COVID cases from home test kits has long been a bottleneck in the healthcare community, but due to the wide variety of test kits available and a push to make tests more user-friendly and uncomplicated, early efforts to report , that COVID positives from home sets had been abandoned.
Other diseases, such as influenza, are also able to be tested at home without reporting to the county, he added.
“It would be nice to know that, but that’s just how we handle the pandemic,” Gamble said. “Testing should be simple, more convenient, and as long as people who are positive take appropriate steps, that’s the key. What we do not want is for someone to test positive, saying ‘I’m fine, I want to. go ahead and carry out my activities. “That’s what leads to proliferation within companies, care centers or schools.”
The Ohio County Health Department offers COVID testing Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and daily vaccinations are available for walk-ins.