ITHACA, N.Y.—Another round of booster clinics for people who have received the Pfizer vaccine are coming to the Ithaca Mall this week, with the Tompkins County Health Department announcing two new clinics.

The clinics are being held during the following dates and times:

Those interested in signing up can also do so over the phone by calling 211 (or 1-877-211-8667) between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

One important distinction: third shots and booster shots are different. Third shots are limited to people whose immune systems may not have built up a strong enough response to COVID-19 from the first two shots. Booster shots, on the other hand, are for eligible individuals with underlying conditions and people who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure due to workplace or institutional settings (a more specific list is available at the bottom of this article). The boosters are to be taken at least six months after the person received the second Pfizer dose. More criteria information available here.

Only Pfizer boosters have been approved so far, though approval of booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is currently under review at the federal level.

“We have seen a good response from individuals seeking the COVID-19 booster dose at our vaccination clinics,” said Tompkins County Public Health Director Frank Kruppa. “For those who are eligible and at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, we are encouraging you to get your booster shot. Booster shots are available and recommended to help increase your immune response prior to a decrease in protection from the primary vaccine series.”  

Kruppa continued, “At this time, only certain individuals who completed two doses of Pfizer vaccine before early April may receive the booster shot. We’re encouraging everyone with questions to reach out to your healthcare provider, and for those who are eligible and ready, we are hosting several upcoming booster shot clinics. All available vaccines continue to be safe and effective at protecting against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.” 

So far, the health department reports that they have administered 450 booster shots to eligible community members, and that the health department will continue to hold booster clinics in the coming weeks. Booster shots are also available at several local pharmacies.

More from the Health Department:

The following populations are currently eligible to receive a booster dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their original Pfizer COVID-19 series: 

·        People 65 years and older should receive a booster shot. 

·        Residents of long-term care settings age 18 years or older should receive a booster shot. 

·        People aged 50-64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot. For a full list of medical conditions, please refer to the Health Department website

·        People aged 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot. For a full list of medical conditions, please refer to the Health Department website.  

·        People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to workplace or institutional setting may receive a booster shot. This may include but is not limited to the following: 

o   Healthcare workers and first responders 

o   Individuals who work in long-term care facilities and nursing homes 

o   School and daycare staff working with students who are not currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine due to age 

o   Food and agricultural workers 

o   Grocery store workers 

o   Public transit workers 

The recommendations above for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine “booster” is separate from the recommended 3rd dose of Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals who are immunocompromised. Please refer to the Health Department website for this previously announced criteria. 

Currently, additional data is being collected to determine recommendations for booster

TCHD is reminding the Tompkins County community of the precautions that can be taken to stop the spread of COVID-19: 

·        Tompkins County continues to be under a mask advisory. Wear a mask while indoors and around others. 

·        Vaccines are readily available. Get vaccinated when you are able and share accurate information with others who are not yet vaccinated. For information on vaccines and local availability, visit https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/covid19popup  

o   Individuals who are moderately or severely immunocompromised and are fully vaccinated with one of the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are advised to get a third dose of vaccine. Immunocompromised individuals should talk to their provider about a third dose, for more information visit: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/covid19vaccinefaq#3rddose  

·        Get tested if you are symptomatic or a close contact of a positive case. For more information on testing, visit: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/factsheets/coronavirussamplingsite#whentogettested  

o   If you are a fully vaccinated close contact of a positive case, TCHD guidance states that you should avoid contact with unvaccinated or immunocompromised individuals for the full 14-day period, even if you test negative.  

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com