COVID-19 booster shots in Rochester: What you need to know

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Thousands of people across the Rochester area now have the green light to get an extra layer of protection against coronavirus.

On Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it’s approving a booster shot for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people considered at highest risk.

Officials saw the decision as a new opportunity and a challenge.

“There’s obviously a whole system that needs to kind of rev up again because we’ve been delivering relatively low numbers of vaccine for the last month or two,” explained Director of the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub Nancy Bennett.

She calculated that getting a new round of COVID vaccines out to the Rochester area may require reestablishing some groundwork now that thousands of people are eligible for boosters.

Mass vaccination sites at the Dome Arena and Rochester Convention Center have shut down as demand for the shots has faded.

“Every county in our region will be considering their options but I think that some mass sites are likely,” Bennett said.

The CDC and the FDA have now approved a third Pfizer COVID-19 shot for:

  • People over 65.
  • Those over 18 with a medical condition that puts them at high risk.
  • Those at high risk for exposure because of their jobs or other issues.

Health officials say staffing shortages at local medical facilities may make it tough for them to ramp up giving the shots, but pharmacies may become a big part of the mission.

CVS now says it’s ready to start offering Pfizer boosters immediately

Its chief medical officer said in a statement Friday "We have the experience and the infrastructure to play a leading role in administering booster shots… We also continue to make it as convenient as possible for the unvaccinated to receive their first doses."

Wegmans says its pharmacies are ready too but it’s waiting for more guidance from the CDC first.

But who exactly qualifies?

“The question is what chronic diseases constitute an underlying condition for which you should get vaccinated?” Bennett said. “That’s an important area that I think everyone is waiting for some guidance. And then the second question would be what occupation do we consider putting people at higher risk.”

An important caveat is that the boosters are only approved for the Pfizer vaccine and for those who’ve received the Pfizer vaccine before.

Boosters for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are under consideration, as is the idea of “mixing and matching” to combine one vaccine with a booster of another vaccine, but none of those have been approved.