New COVID-19 boosters available at Triangle pharmacies, health departments

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — After the CDC and FDA gave the green light to new, bivalent COVID-19 doses last week, health departments and pharmacies across the Triangle have started administering shots.

“The phone is ringing off of the hook, because we got almost 100 phone calls today. So we are scheduling everything. We’re booked until I think Saturday,” said Sree Bommu, Pharmacist-in-Charge at Durham Pharmacy.

Wednesday morning, they received 300 Pfizer doses, giving the first two to Ted and Alice Barrow.

“Our age, and the fact that we’re going to be doing some traveling. And it just seems like the prudent, safe thing to do,” said Ted Barrow.

Alice Barrow added: “My last (booster) I slept a lot the next day and had a little chill, but if that happens, that’s fine. I’m prepared to just relax and wait it out. But it wasn’t bad. None of them were bad.”

It’s the third booster for each.

“I had COVID back in the beginning of April, and I attribute it to the booster shots, it was only a mild case,” said Ted Barrow.

The new bivalent doses are believed to offer greater protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants, which comprise the majority of new COVID cases.

“Prior to the new booster, they protected against most of the variants. But what we’re seeing now with COVID, the most common variant is the omicron variant. The BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. And our previous boosters did not offer much protection against these variants,” said Dr. Stefanie Etienne, the Interim Medical Director for Wake County Health and Human Services.

Wake County anticipated beginning its new booster appointments Wednesday; however, because of a delay in Moderna’s doses arriving, it was pushed back until Thursday. Wake County has 1,200 Pfizer bivalent doses and 600 Moderna bivalent doses, and opened appointment sign-ups late Wednesday afternoon. They will be offered at all five vaccination sites in the county.

Health departments in Durham, Johnston, and Cumberland counties started offering doses Wednesday, with Lee County’s Health Department sharing plans to begin Friday.

Elsewhere, Eastern Carolina Medical Center in Benson is offering both bivalent doses, Hayes Barton Pharmacy in Raleigh will begin Thursday, and Central Pharmacy in Durham plans to start Friday. Other pharmacies contacted by ABC11 shared they had not yet received the updated doses.

“We did almost close to 400-500 (shots) a week when the (initial) booster came out, same thing I’m expecting this one too,” said Bommu about interest.

The availability of these vaccines coincides with flu shots now being administered.

“It is safe to get both the flu and COVID vaccine at the same time. If people are apprehensive, they can wait a few days. But it is considered safe to get both,” Etienne explained.

The Pfizer doses are available to people 12 and older, while the Moderna shots are available to those 18 and older. In Wake County, people will have their choice of which shot they’d prefer, though it’s recommended you choose the same version as your original doses.

“It has to be at least two months after completing a primary series of either the Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after receiving a booster of either of those vaccines,” Etienne said.

For those who have recently had COVID, Etienne said it is recommended people wait until they no longer have symptoms before seeking a booster.

Wednesday, NCDHHS shared a promising update on the state’s COVID metrics, reporting a sixth straight week of decreasing new cases, and the fifth straight week of a declining percentage of people displaying COVID symptoms in the hospital. COVID-19 hospitalizations decreased by 107 people over the past week.

To find a site for a shot, click here.

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