DOVER — As all Delaware adults became eligible for COVID-19 booster doses Friday, the Kent County Coalition for vaccine equity is still looking to bring the vaccine to as many people as possible, whether it’s a first dose, second dose or booster shot.
The coalition has administered more than 10,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses since it was formed in March of this year. It has done 154 booster shots so far this month along with four first doses and seven second doses, as of Wednesday, according to one of its leaders, Rev. Rita Paige. It is also planning on hosting an upcoming vaccine clinic for the newly eligible 5-11-year-old age group on a date to be determined.
In an effort to discuss the messaging around the vaccine, Rev. Paige hosted Dr. Priscilla Mpasi, a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, at the coalition’s monthly meeting this week.
Dr. Mpasi, who is also a child and minority health advocate, said it is important to meet those who are vaccine-hesitant where they are — both physically and mentally.
“It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Get the vaccine because I said so,’” Dr. Mpasi said. “You have to engage, you have to educate and you have to empower.”
Dr. Mpasi said she uses the analogy of driving a car with her patients, where there’s so many safety measures that just become second nature.
“I put on my seat belt because that is my first layer of protection,” Dr. Mpasi said. “Then there is an airbag in your steering wheel which is your second layer of protection. So the vaccine is your seat belt and the mask is your air bag. You could be the best driver, you look both ways, you stop at lights and stop signs, but we do not know what’s going to happen to you so you put all those safety measures in place so if unfortunately you do get hit you will be protected and have less injuries because of your seat belt and air bag.”
“That’s like the vaccine,” she added. “You’ll interact with people and if you do interact with someone who has COVID-19 the vaccine can decrease the likelihood of transmission and if you do get infected with COVID-19 the immune protection will decrease your symptoms and keep you out of the hospital.”
The coalition has two more vaccine clinics planed for November — at Transformation AME Zion in Dover on Monday (3-5 p.m.) and Mt. Enon Baptist Church in Milford on Saturday, Nov. 27 (1:30-4 p.m.). Focus Pharmacy will be administering the doses at both events which will have boosters, first doses, second doses and flu shots available.
The Delaware Division of Public Health on Friday encouraged all fully vaccinated Delawareans 18 and older to receive a booster dose of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. This came after news from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory committee expanded booster dose eligibility to all adults 18 and older, who were originally fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines at least six months prior.
Originally, booster eligibility for Pfizer and Moderna was limited to those 65 and older, those who live in long-term care settings, those who have underlying medical conditions and those who work or live in high-risk settings.
Booster doses were already approved for anyone who initially received J&J, two months after their original vaccine.
Boosters became recommended by CDC and FDA after some evidence of waning immunity over time, especially as the delta variant surged this summer. The doses are designed to increase protection from COVID-19 in those who originally mounted a good immune response from vaccination to begin with.
DPH director Dr. Karly Rattay said in a statement evidence from clinical studies showed boosters do not merely top off immunity, but elevate protection well beyond peak levels from the primary series. Some experts say the elevated levels of protection can be as high as 95%. The same study showed an 85% reduction in hospitalization, 76% reduction in severe disease, and 94% reduction in deaths in those who received a booster dose.
“We applaud the latest federal action to make all adults eligible for a booster vaccine,” Dr. Rattay said. “COVID-19 cases are again rising and having this tool in our arsenal can help us in holding off another winter surge that could come with people gathering inside more often as the weather turns colder.”
Dr. Rattay added the most effective step continues to be for more people to get their first and second doses of the vaccine — according to the state’s most recent data, 82% of last week’s COVID-19 hospitalizations were not fully vaccinated while 74% of new positive cases for the same week were also not fully vaccinated.