Regional pharmacies and hospitals begin administering Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots
DHMC has begun offering additional vaccine doses to employees and will expand service to patients in the next few weeks. Dick’s House is not currently offering booster shots.
On Sept. 24 — the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a set of recommendations outlining who would be eligible for an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — major national pharmacy chains, such as CVS Pharmacy, began rolling out Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for those on the CDC’s list. Other healthcare facilities, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, have been slower to administer shots.
According to the CDC’s recommendations, people 65 years and older, residents in long-term care settings, people between the ages of 18 and 64 with underlying medical conditions and anyone over 18 who works or lives in “high-risk settings” are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot. CDC guidelines recommend eligible populations receive Pfizer booster shots no sooner than six months after the second of their two vaccine doses.
The expansion of the population that is eligible to receive an extra dose of the Pfizer vaccine comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the emergency use authorizations for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in August — allowing certain immunocompromised individuals to receive an additional vaccine dose.
Kate ’25, who requested that her last name be withheld for medical privacy reasons, said she is a part of the immunocompromised group and received her booster shot a few days after she became eligible. She said it was to protect both herself and others.
“I had had friends who had gone to school and started earlier than Dartmouth and said that the mask-wearing on their campuses was not very good at all,” she said. “I was worried that it would be the same way at Dartmouth — and it did end up being that way, so I’m glad that I ended up getting the shot.”
According to a CVS press release, CVS pharmacy is offering booster shots at nearly 6,000 CVS pharmacy and walk-in locations as of Sept. 24. To expedite wait times, CVS urges people to make appointments online rather than walking in. Hanover residents eligible for booster shots can make an online appointment to receive the extra dose of Pfizer vaccine at the downtown CVS pharmacy.
As for how booster shot providers are enforcing eligibility rules, CVS is following CDC guidelines and asking people to “self-attest” their eligibility, according to the CVS press release. Additionally, the company asks patients scheduling online appointments to provide the vaccine manufacturer and date of their last COVID-19 vaccine dose to ensure they are adhering to the CDC recommended six month timeline.
CVS health media contact Tara Burke wrote in an email statement that CVS doesn’t “break out the number of boosters administered,” adding that CVS Health has administered more than 34 million total COVID-19 vaccines across the country.
DHMC has also begun rolling out booster shots, but only to “a limited number of employees,” according to an emailed statement from Dartmouth-Hitchcock media relations manager Audra Burns. Burns wrote that only employees “at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure serving in direct patient care roles” are currently able to receive the booster shot. She added that booster dose access will soon be expanded to other employees.
According to Burns, the booster shot is not mandated at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health “at this time,” but Dartmouth-Hitchcock recommends eligible employees receive a booster shot when it becomes available. While the hospital is not currently offering the booster shot to patients, Burns said they are working on plans to give booster shots to patients “as soon as [they] can, which will be in the next several weeks.”
Dartmouth College Health Service pharmacy manager Tawnya Grant said Dick’s House is currently not offering booster shots and has not established when it will start providing them.
Kate said she thinks her booster shot has helped her both psychologically and physically.
“Mainly, it just helped me feel safer coming to school,” she said. “Even though I’m not sure that it did anything to increase the number of antibodies that I have, it just makes me feel a little bit better.”
Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — the other manufacturers whose vaccines have been approved in the U.S. — are currently seeking authorization for their booster shots. On Thursday, an FDA panel recommended a booster shot of the Moderna vaccine for the same groups of people who became eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster last month. The panel will consider boosters for Johnson & Johnson recipients on Friday. If approved by the FDA and the CDC, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster shots could be available as early as the end of October.