Latest COVID vaccines starting to hit area pharmacies

Shots can be taken with flu vaccine, pharmacists and experts say.

Some local health departments have not yet received shipments of the latest COVID vaccine, but area pharmacies and some clinics are starting to give out shots.

People six months and older are recommended to get an updated COVID shot if they have not had one in the past two months, as well as a flu shot, this season.

“COVID is seen still…as a bug that people can get that is very dangerous,” said Dr. Todd Kepler, senior medical director at Oak Street Health, which has started giving their patients the updated shot. “It still causes high risk for hospitalization, high risk for death, particularly in those that are immunocompromised and those who are 65 and older. So getting the vaccination definitely helps prevent very severe disease, helps prevent people from dying.”

The most recent data available in Ohio shows a decline in cases and hospitalizations, but deaths due to COVID-19 are still going up slightly. There were 44 deaths reported last week, according to the Ohio Department of Health, up from the three-week average of 35. Admissions to the ICU were at 10 over the last week, the same as the three-week average. Cases were at 6,380, down from the average of 7,442, and hospitalizations were at 221, down from 263.

“Receiving an updated COVID-19 vaccine can restore protection and provide enhanced protection against the variants currently responsible for most infections and hospitalizations,” said Allison Combs, public information officer for the Warren County Health District.

Among adults, 23% say they will definitely get the new COVID vaccine, 23% say they will probably get it, while 19% say they will probably not get it and 33% say they definitely not get it, according to KFF, formerly know as Kaiser Family Foundation. The survey was done in September by phone and online.

Health departments in area counties like Montgomery and Clark counties are still waiting for their allotments.

Public Health - Dayton and Montgomery County is expecting to get its allotment of the updated shot in the coming weeks, said Dan Suffoletto, public information manager for the department. Clarke County Combined Health has not received its shipment.

“It’s a fluctuating period of time based on each individual location,” Suffoletto said.

When the shots are available, Public Health will post notices online and on social media.

“It’s a commercial distribution, so it’s being distributed like other vaccines are being distributed through the marketplace, so each individual vaccine provider—be it Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens, CVS—they have their own supply chains and own schedules of how they get their vaccines,” Suffoletto said. “None of that is managed or controlled by health departments.”

Other departments are starting to receive their vaccines.

“The Warren County Health District has received shipments of COVID-19 vaccine,” Combs said. “We are currently taking appointments.” People can call 513-695-2428 to schedule an appointment.

Eligible children, including those who are uninsured, can receive shots through the federal Vaccines for Children program. For uninsured adults, the CDC has created the Bridge Access Program, which will be in effect through the end of 2024. As part of that program, the CDC has contracted with CVS, Walgreens, and eTrue North pharmacies to allow them to continue offering free COVID-19 vaccinations to the uninsured.

For those with insurance, they may have to check with their insurance provider to find a location that is considered in-network so they do not have to pay to get the vaccine.

“All insurance companies have their own way you have use their insurance company, and that’s going to be true for all insurance policies,” Suffoletto said.

The commercial distribution of the vaccine may create another barrier for people seeking the vaccine if they are concerned about cost.

“One concern is that providers/health departments must now purchase the vaccine. This may cause a barrier due to the cost, concern over the uncertainty of reimbursement of the vaccine and demand,” Combs said.

People who are six months and older are recommended to get an updated COVID shot if they have not had one in the past two months, as well as a flu shot, this season.

“It continues to be important for everyone who is eligible to stay up to date with their vaccines,” Suffoletto said.

People can also get their flu and COVID shots done at the same time.

“The CDC has confirmed that patients can get any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as the flu vaccine. Eligible patients can also get RSV and flu vaccines at the same time,” said Hiba Betka, CVS Health pharmacy leader.

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