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Coronavirus

Nearly 1,000 people have gotten a COVID booster since a mass vax site reopened in Belleville

Cars line up at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville for the COVID-19 booster shot on Oct. 5. The fairgrounds officially reopened as a mass vaccination site and is open for those eligible to get the Pfizer booster shot from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Derik Holtmann
/
Belleville News-Democrat
Cars line up at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville for the COVID-19 booster shot on Monday. The fairgrounds officially reopened as a mass vaccination site and is open for those eligible to get the Pfizer booster shot from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published by the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

The Belle-Clair Fairgrounds in Belleville officially reopened as a drive-thru mass vaccination site Tuesday for the COVID-19 booster shot.

The site is scheduled to run three weeks and will be open to administer the first, second and third and booster doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Appointments are strongly encouraged for booster and third doses.

The last drive up appointment will be taken at 7 p.m. daily, St. Clair County Health Department Director Myla Blandford said during Wednesday’s weekly briefing.

Blandford said nearly almost 600 Pfizer doses were administered Tuesday, and, as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, nearly another 400 additional Pfizer vaccines were administered.

The fairgrounds previously served as a mass vaccination site for the first two doses of the vaccine.

“We’re happy to say, it looks like everything’s going well, it’s well-received, and back up and running as usual,” Blandford said. “The feedback across the board was great. The residents were very welcoming and happy to have everybody there.

“Everybody is very dedicated to what they’re doing and they understand why they’re there and what needs to be done.”

Only the Pfizer booster is presently available. Blandford said the Food & Drug Administration will meet Oct. 15-16 to review Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster data. Then, Oct. 26, the FDA will meet to discuss Pfizer doses for those in the 5-11 age group.

Also on Wednesday, St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency Director Herb Simmons addressed why the mass vaccination site is only open three days a week.

“The fairgrounds has been so gracious to us in the past. We had it for four, five months when they were kind of put on hold for everything,” he said. “Now they have their weekend business they have to take and we want to be sure they’re able to do that. We’re trying to make it as accommodating as possible for the citizens of the county to come in there.

“So, please, there’s really no excuse why ... it’s real simple to get in there.”

Additionally, Blandford discussed the beginning-to-end time of receiving the booster, estimating it at 40-45 minutes.

“When you meet with your health care professional and they administer the vaccine, they’ll ask a series of questions and from that information they’ll determine if you have to wait 15 minutes or 30 minutes depending on your health history,” she said. “Once you get through the line and you’re vaccinated, you’ll go to a monitoring lot where there’s meta-professionals out there surveying individuals to make sure no one’s had any type of reaction or any issues.

“And they’ll either ask you to stay for 15 or 30 minutes ... so with that, most people are still about under 45 minutes.”

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR A BOOSTER DOSE?

Anyone who previously received the Pfizer vaccine and who falls in one of the categories below can receive a booster dose, as long as it has been at least six months since the second dose:

  • Anyone 65 years old and older
  • Anyone who lives in a long-term care facility who is at least 18 years old
  • Anyone age 18-64 who has one of the following conditions: Overweight or obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Long term (chronic) kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Long term lung disease like COPD
  • Dementia
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV
  • A weakened immune system
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • History of organ transplant
  • History of smoking
  • Stroke
  • Substance use disorder

Anyone age 18-64 who is at high risk for COVID-19 exposure due to their job as a:

  • First responder (healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
  • Education staff (teachers, support staff, daycare worker)
  • Food and agriculture worker
  • Manufacturing worker
  • Corrections worker
  • U.S. Postal Service worker
  • Public transit worker
  • Grocery store worker

WHO CAN RECEIVE A THIRD DOSE?

Anyone who received either Pfizer or Moderna (not J&J) for their first two doses and who has a weakened immune system (see list of qualifying conditions below) can get a third dose at least 28 days after receiving the second dose. This is not considered a booster. Qualifying conditions include:

  • Receiving active cancer treatment for solid tumors or cancers of the blood
  • Receiving an organ transplant and taking medicine to suppress the immune system
  • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, WiskottAldrich syndrome)
  • Advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress the immune response

HOW TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT

Appointments to participate in the mass vaccination event may be scheduled online at https://www.co.st-clair.il.us/Departments/Health-Department/COVID-19-Information/Vaccination-Screen or by calling the St. Clair County Health Department at 618-825-4447.

WHERE ELSE CAN YOU GET A BOOSTER SHOT?

Below is a list of additional locations offering Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots:

Garen Vartanian is a reporter and editor with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.