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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Corridor hospitals began distributing COVID-19 booster shots on Monday after federal officials approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster dose against the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.
Among the first hospitals in the state to administer the third dose of the vaccine was the University of Iowa Health Care, which began distributing boosters to more than 10,000 eligible employees on Monday.
“Our goal is to provide an appointment to all UI Health Care employees who wish to receive a booster. Our campaign starts with Pfizer-BioNTech as the first authorized vaccine booster,” according to an email sent to employees and obtained by The Gazette.
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids also began to administer the first booster shots to employees Monday. The hospital’s on-site vaccine clinic for staff will be open through Oct. 8, according to spokeswoman Karen Vander Sanden.
Other Corridor hospitals are expected to implement plans for the additional dose among eligible employees in the coming weeks. UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital still is finalizing details for distribution of the Pfizer vaccine booster dose to staff, spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo said.
Federal public health officials recommended certain Americans receive a booster shot after studies have found protection against the virus may decrease over time. As the highly contagious delta variant has caused a surge in new cases and hospitalizations, experts say those most at-risk from a coronavirus infection should seek out the protection provided by the additional dose of the vaccine.
This past week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals aged 65 and older, nursing home residents and those aged 50 to 64 with underlying health conditions.
On Friday, the CDC director also added a recommendation that front line workers and other individuals whose jobs put them at risk for infection also should receive a booster. That includes hospital staff and other health care workers.
UI Health Care officials anticipate they will complete the first phase of their vaccine booster program within four to six weeks “by offering up 500 vaccine appointments a day,” the email to employees stated.
The first phase includes employees who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago, or through March 31.
These booster shots will be distributed to employees using the existing stock on hand at UI Health Care, spokeswoman Laura Shoemaker said. The Iowa City health system will order more doses as needed through Johnson County Public Health, which receives the vaccine allocation from the state.
Only faculty and staff who were given the first two Pfizer doses will receive a booster shot. According to federal guidance, individuals should not receive a booster from Pfizer if they are vaccinated with the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Individuals who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots likely will need a booster shot as well, according to the CDC. However, federal officials are awaiting more data on the effectiveness and safety of those booster shots.
UI Health Care officials anticipate federal officials will review that data and make a determination in the coming weeks, they said.
“We’ll be ready to add these employees to our phased scheduling invitations as soon as those booster doses are authorized for health care workers,” officials stated in an email.
Mercy Hospital in Iowa City did not respond to The Gazette’s inquiry about booster shots for staff.
Medical groups across the United States praised the decision late last week to include front line health care staff in COVID-19 booster recommendations, particularly as many hospitals nationwide are dealing with an overwhelming surge in hospitalizations.
“Health care workers were among the first to receive the vaccines, and many workers are now nine months out from their initial vaccine series,” American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement.
“At a time when hospitals across the country are experiencing ongoing surges in COVID-19 hospitalizations and severe workforce shortages, all available tools — including booster shots — should be considered to keep front line health care workers safe and safeguard access to care.”
The Washington Post contributed to this article.
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