Loose booster vaccine advice has Garfield County employers awaiting guidance on whether it might be required in some sectors | AspenTimes.com

Loose booster vaccine advice has Garfield County employers awaiting guidance on whether it might be required in some sectors

People line up outside the Garfield County Public Health Building in Glenwood Springs to receive their COVID booster vaccines.
Carrie Godes/Garfield County Public Health

Local employers who fall under state or federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements for their workers, or who are requiring them voluntarily, are awaiting word on whether that should extend to booster shots.

“We have not received that directive from the state at this time,” Annick Pruett, community relations director for Grand River Health in Rifle, said Thursday.

“I do know many of our staff have received the boosters already,” she said. That includes nearly all of Grand River Health’s physicians, she said.

Grand River and other state-licensed hospitals and health-care facilities, including Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, fall under the state’s health-care worker vaccine mandate.

Federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management which both have a large workforce locally, fall under the federal mandate.

And, many other area public and private employers have either required vaccines, or strongly advised that their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

But, with the clock ticking past six months since many people received their second doses in the spring, one question is whether the booster dose will also be required.

Updated CDC guidance sent out last week recommends Moderna and Pfizer recipients get a booster shot six months after the second dose.

Those who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago can now get a booster shot. And, it doesn’t even have to be J&J. It can be either Moderna or Pfizer.

Regardless of the initial vaccine someone received, CDC says its OK to “mix and match” with another type of vaccine for the booster dose.

Under that guidance, priority is still given to people 65 years and older, residents of long-term care facilities, people ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions and people ages 18 to 64 who live or work in places where COVID-19 exposure is heightened.

In Colorado, though, pretty much anyone who thinks they need a booster dose can arrange to get one at any vaccine site that’s offering the COVID-19 vaccine, according to followup guidance from state public health officials.

Recently, anyone who is entered in the MyColorado app database with a COVID-19 vaccination record and is six months out from their last dose likely received a text advising they’re due for a booster.

“People who are eligible should get their booster dose as soon as possible, especially as we approach the holidays and look forward to safely celebrating with our families and friends,” Dr. Eric France, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in an Oct. 21 news release.

Valley View Hospital hosted a booster clinic on Wednesday, administering shots to approximately 900 people, VVH Chief Community Relations Officer Stacey Gavrell said.

“It was a strong and busy clinic,” she said. “We targeted individuals per the CDC guidance for the clinic, essentially asking people to self-assess themselves relative to these guidelines and their personal eligibility.”

Gavrell said Valley View’s vaccination team will continue to gauge demand for boosters, and said future COVID booster clinics are likely.

“We are not experiencing the supply chain issue in regards to getting the vaccine as we did previously,” she said.

Boosting protection

Garfield County Public Health Specialist Mason Hohstadt said the county’s latest spike in new COVID-19 cases points up the importance for older residents in particular who are already vaccinated to get the booster.

The county now breaks out new cases by vaccination status. For the seven-day period ending Oct. 24, 143 of the 173 new cases confirmed were among people who were unvaccinated.

Just 30 of those cases were “breakthrough cases” among vaccinated people, according to the county’s COVID-19 data page.

While the majority of recent breakthrough cases have been among working-age people in the 30-39 and 40-49 age groups, 47% of breakthrough cases involve people over age 70, Hohstadt said.

“That does show the waning efficacy of the vaccine for those individuals in particular, which is why the booster shots are a necessary and needed thing,” he said.

To date, 73% of Garfield County’s eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose, and 66% is fully vaccinated.

Broken out by age, the county’s 70-79 age group has the highest vaccination rate (full), at 89%, followed closely by the 80+ and 60-69 age groups at 80%.

The remainder of the age group vaccination rates are as follows:

50-59 — 67%

40-49 — 64%

30-39 — 58%

19-29 — 59%

16-18 — 57%

12-15 — 54%

Anyone who is six months out from their last dose should seriously consider getting a booster, Hohstadt said.

“All of the things we expected the vaccine to do, it is doing, including waning efficacy,” he said.

Garfield County Public Health continues to offer vaccination clinics, including booster doses on request, during regular weekly clinic times.

The next clinics are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesdays, Nov. 3, 10 and 17 at the Glenwood Springs office, 2014 Blake Ave.; and Thursdays, Nov. 4 and 18 during the same hours in Rifle, 195 W. 14th St.

Vaccines are also administered at Valley View, Grand River Health, Mountain Family Health Centers, Glenwood Medical Associates and most private pharmacies.

Though clearance for the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to children ages 5-11 is expected sometime in November, Garfield County Public Health spokeswoman Carrie Godes said it may not be available for that age group in Garfield County until December.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.