By Shelley Farrington Lincoln News • September 1, 2022
MILLINOCKET – With the worst of the Covid pandemic behind us, officials at Millinocket Regional Hospital (MRH) are continuing the mission to provide education on how best to protect against the emerging variants. The most recent information is about the so-called Omicron Booster shot.
According to MRH Infection Preventionist Todd Phillips, RN, BSN, MPH “viruses constantly change through a process called mutation. When a virus has one or more mutations, it’s called a variant. SARS-CoV-2 has had a number of variants including Alpha, Beta, Delta and now Omicron.”
Data from the CDC indicates that the Omicron variant of the COVID virus: is more contagious than previous strains but causes less severe illness and death; it’s more easily evades immunity from vaccination and previous infection; can cause reinfection even in people who have recovered from COVID-19.
MRH Marketing Director Katie Mackin said booster shot clinics will be offered in the near future much like flu shot clinics. She said as soon as the hospital is notified of vaccine amounts and they know they have enough on hand to provide a clinic they will announce one. She said the new booster will protect against the most prevalent variants.
Moderna and Pfizer have both applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a new booster formulation. Pfizer is seeking authorization for people ages 12 and up and Moderna is seeking authorization for all adults 18 and over.
Phillips said the vaccine is a bivalent vaccine “which means it targets the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron sub variants in addition to the original coronavirus strain in a single shot.”
He said BA.5 accounts for nearly 90 percent of all new COVID cases in the US according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Persons fully vaccinated and boosted have 94 percent protection against serious illness and death,” Phillips said. “This is not the same as previous COVID boosters. It is a new formula that will give you the best protection against current known strains of COVID.”
Approval of the boosters are expected mid-September
Phillips said the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are interchangeable so citizens shouldn’t worry about matching previous shots.
“Vaccination recommendations are based on your age, the vaccination you first received and the time since your last dose,” Phillips said. “You are considered “up-to-date” on your vaccinations when you have received all primary and booster doses recommended for your age.
Those severely immunocompromised have different recommendations for vaccines.”
Mackin said MRH will follow a similar schedule of vaccination making sure frontline workers are vaccinated and then public clinics will be announced.
“We are expecting vaccines will be available mid-to-late September,” Mackin said. “Initial vaccine supply will be limited and will increase over time. We anticipate having our first public clinic the beginning of October pending additional distribution of vaccine.”
Mackin said clinics will be held at Stearns High School and will be open to walk-ins as they have in the past.
“Clinic dates and times will be announced once we have more information on vaccine quantities and shipping dates,” she said.