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All adults now eligible for boosters

As the state and some local counties begin seeing a rise in coronavirus cases, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized booster shots for everyone 18 years and older.

Some areas of the Piedmont Health District began seeing a spike in virus cases last week. According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) from Friday, Nov. 12, to Friday, Nov. 19,

Lunenburg once again saw a large increase in coronavirus cases, coming in at 47 cases over the last seven days.

Prince Edward County saw 13 new cases of the virus. Buckingham County was up 22 cases, and Cumberland County rose by eight new cases. Charlotte saw 20 new cases last week.

In the Piedmont Health District, Lunenburg, Cumberland, Charlotte and Amelia counties are all currently trending upward in cases, while Buckingham, Prince Edward and Nottoway counties continue to trend downward.

Virginia reported a total of 1,762 COVID-19 cases Nov. 19, up significantly from 1,466 cases reported on Nov. 12. The state’s seven-day moving average also jumped from 1,328 to 1,518.

As numbers rise, more Americans now find themselves eligible for a booster shot of the vaccine.

According to Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond, on Friday, Nov. 19, the FDA expanded authorization for both Moderna and Pfizer vaccine boosters to be made available to everyone ages 18 and up.

Previously, a single booster dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines was authorized for administration only to individuals age 65 and older or those ages 18-64 with frequent exposure or a risk of severe illness from the virus.

Now, all adults without qualification can obtain booster shots of any of the three U.S. vaccines — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Almond said health officials are highly recommending boosters for anyone age 50 or older, a group at higher risk for severe infections.

She said currently, 26.9% of those 65 and older in the Piedmont Health District have received their third doses or boosters. 76.6% of those 65 and older have been fully vaccinated.

“All COVID-19 vaccines continue to be good safeguards against severe illness and hospitalization for COVID-19,” Almond said. “However, over time, our scientists continue to evaluate and seek a better understanding of the best timing of the vaccines to provide long-lasting immunity.  When the vaccines were initially developed, the goal was to find the fastest route to providing good immediate immunity, to halt the surging infections that were overwhelming our healthcare system and leading to the deaths of too many. This led to our current pattern of immunizing with single dose J&J or two dosages being administered 3-4 weeks apart for Pfizer and Moderna.

“As we gain more information related to when to give the vaccine to provide long-lasting protection, scientists recognize that adding one more dose to the initial vaccination series months later provides another needed boost to our antibodies — which are one line of defense — but may also help a maturing immune system better remember the enemy, better remember how to fight against COVID.”

Booster doses are currently recommended for all adults age 18 and over six months after completion of the primary series of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Almond said as of right now, the severity of COVID-19 has declined as seen in low numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

On Friday, Nov. 19, Centra Health was reporting a total of 31 COVID patients at its Lynchburg General and Centra Southside Community Hospital locations, with four patients in the ICU, three of which were vented. Seven of the 31 total patients were fully vaccinated, and 24 were unvaccinated.

However, Almond noted, as the colder weather months and holiday season approaches and residents spend more time indoors gathered together, the risk for all respiratory infections will increase, including the flu and COVID-19, and cases are likely to begin rising.

“Behaviors that minimize spread such as mask wearing in indoor public settings, increasing ventilation or use of HEPA filters and handwashing are very important,” she said. “Vaccination, however, remains our best defense against COVID-19. Give the gift of protection this holiday season. Support our front line, support our teachers, support our healthcare system. Protect your family. Get vaccinated.”

Vaccination rates in each county of the health district, as of Monday, were as follows:

Lunenburg: population fully vaccinated: 48.9%, population with booster shot: 7.6%

Prince Edward: population fully vaccinated: 41.7%, population with booster shot: 9.8%

Buckingham: population fully vaccinated: 49.4%, population with booster shot: 8.9%

Cumberland: population fully vaccinated: 44.7%, population with booster shot: 7.6%

Charlotte: population fully vaccinated: 48.3%, population with booster shot: 9.6%

Below is a list of testing and vaccination opportunities in the coming weeks:

Wednesday, Dec. 1 at Crewe Fire Dept. from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Walk-ins only.

Friday, Dec. 3 at Hampden-Sydney Field House from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. Walk-ins only. Vaccines provided by Charlotte Drug.

Monday, Dec. 13 at Blackstone Fire Department from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Register at vase.vdh.virginia.gov.