VDH rolling out booster vaccines for ages 16-17 after CDC authorization

Virginia

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Teens ages 16 and 17 in Virginia can now sign up for booster COVID-19 vaccine shots after the Centers for Disease Control OK’d boosters for that age group on Thursday.

“The evaluation shows its safe to get the booster,” said Dr. Douglas Mitchell, medical director of CHKD Medical Group. “There’s enough data, now that we’ve gathered over time, to show that the immunity drops off in all age groups over time and if we provide that booster dose we bring that immunity back up.”

Boosters are available at locations across the commonwealth, including pharmacies and doctor’s offices, as well as community vaccination centers such as the one at Military Circle Mall in Norfolk.

“The hospitalizations that we saw at CHKD beginning August, September, October were the highest we’ve ever seen with the sickest kids we’ve ever seen,” said Mitchell. “So we’ve had multiple kids end up in the ICU on severe live support measures as a result of COVID and so it’s, we’ve got a chance to prevent that. The kids that are in the hospital on those life support with severe disease have not been vaccinated.”

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16 and 17 year olds are eligible for the booster six months after their second dose of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The vaccine was fully approved by the FDA for those 16 and older back in August, and boosters have emergency use authorization.

“This is great news for the Commonwealth’s efforts to vaccinate as much of the state’s eligible population against COVID-19 as possible,” said State Vaccination Liaison Danny Avula, M.D., M.P.H. “Expanding the ranks of those eligible for a Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose in particular adds another 79,508 people to the eligible population which, in turn, will add to the strength of the line of defense we have against the spread of COVID-19.”

The Military Circle Mall community vaccine clinic will also be offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination booster to teens ages 16 and 17.

“Now that the presence of the Omicron variant has been confirmed in Virginia, booster vaccines help to broaden and strengthen immunity in those who are fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, chief deputy commissioner for VDH and Acting Director for Norfolk Health District. “If you are eligible, now is the time to get the booster to help strengthen our community and to stop the spread of the virus. And if you haven’t been vaccinated, now is the time. All persons 5 years of age and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The Pfizer vaccine and others still provide strong protection against infection and severe illness and death from the coronavirus. Most new infections continue to be in unvaccinated people.

10 On Your Side asked Mitchell about side effects, including myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle and a reported side effect for some after the second vaccine dose. He said we won’t see incidents caused by the booster does until we have more widespread use. However, he said data from the second dose is reassuring.

“Myocarditis occurs in about 8 in a million doses. It is mild and it resolves and it goes away with no sequalae, but the myocarditis and heart impact after infection is about 2% or 2 in 100 infections and it is not mild and it doesn’t always completely resolve,” said Mitchell. “It very much so is a mild side effect. I wouldn’t even call it a complication, from the vaccine versus true complication from having the infection. That seems to be something that’s worth vaccinating for.”

Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.

Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.

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