Hickory – Catawba County Public Health and other vaccination providers throughout the county are now offering a third or “booster” dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised. Third doses for other groups of vaccinated individuals are anticipated to be available later this fall.

A small fraction of Catawba County’s population has an immune system that has been made weaker due to disease, certain medical treatments or organ transplants. People who are moderately to severely immunocompromised, including organ-transplant patients, people undergoing chemotherapy, and people taking chronic medications that can suppress their immune systems may not have had as strong an immune response to initial vaccine doses. The third dose would strengthen that response and further protect them from serious COVID-19 complications.

Conditions and treatments associated with moderate and severe immune compromise include but are not limited to:

· Active treatment for solid tumor and hematologic malignancies

· Receipt of solid-organ transplant and taking immunosuppressive therapy

· Receipt of CAR-T-cell or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (within 2 years of transplantation or taking immunosuppression therapy)

· Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)

· Advanced or untreated HIV infection

· Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.

Individuals who are unsure if they should get a third dose should consult with their physician.

Appointments for immunocompromised individuals’ third doses are available through Public Health and can be obtained by calling 828-282-2002 or by going to www.catawbavaccine.org. Other locations offering vaccinations include some local physician offices, pharmacies and urgent cares. A COVID-19 vaccine finder tool is available at https://www.vaccines.gov/search/.

It is anticipated that this fall, additional groups of individuals will be eligible to receive third doses. Catawba County Public Health is awaiting forthcoming guidance from NCDHHS before beginning to provide these booster doses. No decision has been made by the FDA on additional doses for individuals who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States continue to be remarkably effective in reducing risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, even against the widely circulating Delta variant,” said Catawba County Public Health Director Jennifer McCracken. “Although we continue to see stable and highly effective protection against hospitalizations and severe outcomes for people who are fully vaccinated, we are seeing a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against infection. It is critical that unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people get their primary series of vaccines to further reduce the risk of COVID-19 and its more severe outcomes. Nearly all the cases of severe disease, hospitalization, and death continue to occur among those not yet vaccinated at all.”

First and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are still available at Catawba County Public Health and other vaccination providers throughout Catawba County. To locate a provider, go to https://covid19.ncdhhs.gov/vaccines.