Coronavirus

Vaccine providers in Louisville are now offering Pfizer booster shots to eligible residents.

Only people 65 and older, those with certain underlying medical conditions and people working in high-risk settings like nursing homes are eligible to get a booster. They also need to be at least six months out from their second vaccine dose. The boosters are meant to address the potential for vaccine immunity to decrease over time.

Dr. SarahBeth Hartlage, who oversees Louisville’s vaccination efforts, said immunity is hard to quantify and not everyone is losing immunity to COVID-19 at the same rate. She said ensuring all residents get a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine is still the top priority for public health officials.

“[The booster] will help protect you against hospitalization and severe illness, so it’s good for you to get it if you are eligible but it’s not something we have to run out and do,” she said.

At this time, Hartlage said the city does not have plans to open up mass vaccination sites for boosters. She said existing vaccine providers have so far managed to keep up with demand since the CDC backed booster shots for millions of older Americans last week.

The city has added two new vaccination sites in zip codes with low vaccination rates: The Neighborhood Place at Valley High School at 10200 Dixie Highway, and Neighborhood House at 201 North 25th St. A full list of vaccination sites is available on the city’s website.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only amended Pfizer’s emergency use authorization to allow for boosters. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not yet applied. Hartlage said it will be “at least a month” before boosters are available from those companies.

That means only people who received the first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are eligible for a third shot, Hartlage said.

“The CDC continues to recommend against mixing products, so whichever drug you got the first time is the one you should continue with,” she said.

Cases Are Down, But Louisville Is Still In The Red

Louisville health officials also announced the city reached a dark milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday: 1,500 residents have now died from the virus. Fourteen of those deaths were recorded last week.

The city remains in the high transmission category and cases are still much higher than they were this summer, when confirmed cases were at times less than 200 per week.. But hospitalizations and confirmed cases in Louisville appear to be trending downward, for now. There were more than 2,500 infections registered last week, compared to approximately 3,700 the week before. The worst week in the recent surge ended Aug. 28, when the city reported about 3,900 new cases.

Mayor Greg Fischer said data show about 90% of the people hospitalized in Louisville are unvaccinated. He continued to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

“We’re seeing unvaccinated people seriously ill, missing work, missing school, they’re ending up in the hospital, which obviously nobody wants to do,” Fischer said. “It can be both scary and uncomfortable, not to mention costly.”

Vaccinations are available for anyone over the age of 12. 

On Tuesday, Pfizer released promising results from a clinical trial that showed the two-dose vaccine is safe and effective for kids aged 5 to 11. The company said it plans to submit a formal request for emergency use authorization for that age group “in the coming weeks.”

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL.