Weekend peace of mind

If you have plans for the weekend, but want to make sure you won’t infect your friends with COVID-19, don’t forget the free testing and vaccine event happening today at the Malheur County Fairgrounds, 795 NW 9th St., in Ontario.

In partnership with the Oregon Health Authority, Malheur County’s ICS team, will be at the Fairgrounds until 4 p.m. today, and every Thursday, offering PCS tests with results emailed to the patient, and all three COVID-19 vaccines for those who wish to have one. Pfizer doses will be available to anyone age 12 and up (with parental consent required for those age 12-15). Pfizer third doses and booster doses will also be available to those who qualify. Details are here. Moderna doses will be available for people age 18 and up, and third doses are available for those who qualify. Booster doses are not yet approved for Moderna. J&J is available as a one-dose vaccine only at this time for ages 18+. $25 gift cards for every dose given. We hope to have Pfizer approved for ages 5+ late this month or early November, so stay tuned to malheurhealth.org for updates.

Leon is a Registered Nurse in the local Emergency Department. He sees patients come in with severe COVID-19 symptoms almost daily. He recently received his booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and said he made the decision to protect himself, his patients and his family, including a son who is too young to be vaccinated.

Please share these flyers with others, and help protect your loved ones from this virus.

Are booster doses available? Not yet

Medical experts convened by the Food and Drug Administration Friday recommended that people age 65 and older, as well as those considered at high risk of severe COVID-19 who’ve been previously fully vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, should receive a booster dose to help maintain the effectiveness of their vaccines over time.

The booster dose should be given at least six months after the second dose was received, and the FDA is reviewing the recommendation to determine whether to add this use to the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

Booster doses have not been recommended for people who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It is expected that federal officials will consider booster doses for people who’ve received these vaccines in coming weeks.

The recommendations from the meeting are just the first steps in the process. No boosters will be available to Oregonians until the remaining steps in the process are completed. Here is what’s next:

  • The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will review the FDA’s recommendation Sept. 22-23. The CDC Director then considers the ACIP recommendation and makes any official CDC recommendation for use of boosters. It is anticipated that ACIP will provide additional guidance on who is considered at high risk of severe COVID-19.
  • After FDA and CDC decisions, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup meets Sept. 24 to consider federal recommendations for implementation in California, Nevada, Washington and Oregon. Once Western States issues a recommendation, the Oregon Health Authority will support implementation.

Booster doses are expected to be widely available through pharmacies, doctor’s offices and clinics, as COVID-19 vaccine is today.

For older adults and others living in skilled nursing facilities, their residences are equipped to provide booster doses once they are fully authorized.

Medical evidence shows that the COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective in preventing COVID-19 associated hospitalizations and deaths. The boosters were recommended because there was some evidence to show that the immune response the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine produces to protect against COVID-19 disease could begin to wane many months after a person was first immunized, especially in older adults. As with other vaccines, a booster shot will strengthen the body’s ability to prevent disease from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Pfizer vaccine receives full FDA approval

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The Food and Drug Administration has given full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA announced Monday morning.

“We hope full approval of the vaccine will instill more confidence in anyone who has been hesitant about receiving the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine. This means the Pfizer vaccine has the same approval as the rest of the standard vaccines on the market which we rely on to keep ourselves protected from other diseases,” said Sarah Poe, Malheur County Health Department Director.

This is the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus to receive full approval, though it is still under emergency use authorization for adolescents age 12-15. Even without full approval, Poe said, “the great news is that Pfizer is available to anyone age 12 and up and can be received at the same time as other vaccines. Now is the time to act as cases are going up and kids are going back to school.”

The vaccine has been under an EUA since Dec. 11, 2020 for individuals age 16 and older, but the full approval comes from expanded safety and efficacy data released by the manufacturer this April. An analysis of 927 confirmed cases found that the vaccine had 91.3 percent efficacy against symptomatic disease up through six months after the second dose. In addition, the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing severe disease, as defined by the CDC, Pfizer said.

The vaccine will be marketed as Comirnaty. The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA technology, and does not contain live virus.

 “Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and research, in a statement.

 “I read an article about a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation which said 31 percent of unvaccinated people would be more likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine once one of them received full approval from the FDA,” said Health Department Nursing Supervisor Rebecca Stricker. “My hope is that this approval will give people the confidence they need to get the vaccine. I would give anything to put an end to this pandemic, and if this change encourages people to get vaccinated, we are that much closer to keeping our public safe and healthy.” In Malheur County, most physician’s offices and clinics provide vaccines, so call your provider to schedule an appointment. Vaccines are also available at the Health Department. To schedule an appointment, call 541-889-7279.


Eligible youth encouraged to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Today, eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine opens to all Oregonians age 16 and over. Snake River Pediatrics’ Matt Berria, PhD, PA-C, said it is important that youth get vaccinated.

“Snake River Pediatrics strongly recommends eligible adolescents receive the safe and highly efficacious COVID-19 vaccine. Doing so not only protects them but also their families, friends, classmates, and teammates,” Berria said. “Receiving the vaccine goes a long way in protecting those that can’t protect themselves, such as younger siblings. It is a simple and effective way to show they care about those around them.”

Berria also said that once people are fully immunized, they no longer need to be tested or quarantined for exposure to COVID-19, can closely associate with other vaccinated individuals without wearing a mask or social distancing, and might even help others who are hesitant about the vaccine make an informed decision, “rather than relying on false and potentially harmful information propagated in part by social media.” 

In Malheur County, where the supply of COVID-19 vaccine now exceeds demand, adults should have no trouble getting vaccinated; however, there is a limited supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one approved for people ages 16-17.

People in this age group are encouraged to call Walgreens in Ontario and speak with someone in the pharmacy to get scheduled for a vaccine appointment. The number is 541-889-6288.

Snake River Pediatrics is expecting a shipment of Pfizer vaccine in early May. The Oregon Health Authority is working to expand availability of the Pfizer vaccine throughout the state.

For more information, visit the OHA’s Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds