Riverside chief pharmacist says to get ahead of the virus, get ahead of the headlines

COVID-19 Vaccine

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — With the pandemic in its 19th month, health officials are concerned another fall plus another winter could equal disaster.

Cynthia Williams, Riverside Health System’s chief pharmacist, was at the loading dock outside Riverside Hospital last December when the hospital received its first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine. She has concerns about what the winter of 2021 and 2022 will bring.

“The challenge is people are now moving back indoors and some of the things such as outdoor dining, family birthday parties, or celebrations outside are now all of a sudden inside. There’s just going to be a higher chance of [coronavirus] spread,” said Williams.

(Photo courtesy: Riverside Health Sytem)

That’s why Riverside Health System is calling on the community to get ahead of the vaccine headlines.

This week the CDC is expected to clear the way for a half-dose Moderna booster shot and a potential mix-and-match booster for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, a certified medical assistant prepares doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

“We do expect that the CDC will come out and finalize those recommendations on Thursday, meaning the way will be cleared for boosters to be available,” said Williams.

The next big headline comes next week when the Food and Drug Administration will consider the Pfizer vaccine for children 5-11 years of age. A recommendation from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is expected shortly after the FDA issues an advisory.

“Continue to stay tuned to understand where things are so that you can make your appointments at your local pharmacy, provider to community clinics that are now reopening to service the community to obtain either your booster doses or your primary series,” Williams said.

Much of the nation’s vaccination policy is based on data from Israel. Through vaccine sourcing and aggressive public health policies, the small country was able to record early widespread acceptance of the vaccine and booster shots that followed this summer. Data from Israel indicated vaccine effectiveness began to wane only six months after patients had received the shot.

(Photo courtesy: Zoberman family)

Rabbi Israel Zoberman of Virginia Beach has closely followed the pandemic headlines in his home country. His 101-year-old mother, a Holocaust survivor, and his siblings were vaccinated in July and August. Zoberman, the founder of Temple Lev Tikvah, is proud his home country has played a role in the shaping of U.S. policy. He prays the vaccine hesitancy numbers in America can be reversed.

(Photo courtesy: Zoberman family)

“As Holocaust survivors and refugees we went through great lengths to survive and to save others, so much more so than we who live in great freedom. Life is a precious gift; for the good of us all, please-please take care of yourself fellow Americans and fellow Virginians,” said Rabbi Zoberman.

(Photo courtesy: Zoberman family)

Infection and hospitalization rates continue to fall in Virginia, but there is a concern, based on the trending in northern states where the temperatures have plummeted and infection rates have soared.

In Maine, infections are up 3 percent but in Vermont, the rate has increased by 38 percent. Meanwhile, vaccine hesitancy is persistent in parts of the south that have yet to experience falling temperatures that force more people indoors.

“The challenge is there’s a very large disparity certainly in the U.S. with vaccination rates when you look at states are with their percentage of vaccinated, especially from the southern tier states up to the northern states, and I think that’s what’s going to continue to cause us problems if we can get through some of the vaccine hesitancy,” Williams said.

Add to the equation the holiday travel season and unmasked indoor gatherings and Hampton Roads could see a reversal in the improved pandemic metrics.

“I think we will continue to see this roller coaster or very large surges will put stress on hospital and health systems,” Williams said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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