Rite-Aid offering second boosters as Monroe County sees uptick in COVID cases

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Rochesterians concerned about coronavirus have a new way to turn as the numbers of COVID cases tick up again.

On Wednesday, pharmacy chain Rite-Aid announced it will offer a second Moderna or Pfizer booster shot after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an additional booster.

The news comes as COVID numbers start to rise.

"It’s really tricky in terms of practicing medicine now,” acknowledged pediatrician David Topa.

With a slight “bump” in coronavirus cases, and rising numbers of young people with colds, and the flu, pediatrician David Topa said the pandemic has become a complicated landscape for doctors.

"Before, we were actively trying to, I guess, teach parents that they didn’t have to come in for every runny nose or a cough," Topa said. "We still have to have COVID on the back of our minds.”

The latest stats from Monroe County reported 347 new cases of COVID, a far cry from January’s sharp spike in the omicron variant, but Topa said the apparent letup in the pandemic, and the relaxation of many mandates, may be encouraging people to ease up on helpful precautions like masks.

"It feels like they are coming out of the pandemic and, perhaps, yes, mask-wearing has definitely become less common,” he said. “And will that contribute to more non-COVID illnesses as well? Probably. We are definitely seeing more of your standard cold symptoms out there. And those illnesses and the ear infections that come along with them as well.“

At the same time, COVID vaccine boosters are getting a boost.

Rite-Aid pharmacies say they’re ready to offer second booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines immediately, as now approved by the CDC for people over 50, or anyone over 12 with risk factors.

Pharmacists say they’re also seeing a trickle of patients finally getting their first vaccines.

“We still see some people coming in for that primary series that haven’t been vaccinated before,” explained Rite Aid Immunizations Director Chris Altman. “And, a lot of that is… maybe a mandate pushed them in. Maybe a conversation with a healthcare provider. Maybe it finally just clicked and then they realized that this was something that was a need for them.”

Altman said health care professionals confront increasingly confusing messages in society, and in social media, sometimes even dividing families over COVID care, vaccines and precautions.

“Healthcare professionals can step in and, from a pharmacist perspective, from access, we’re readily accessible and we can step in and, sort of, untangle something that may be out there in the media," Altman said.

“I think some humility is still in order,” added Topa, “to make sure that… Just to help us all address this and to make sure that we are still appreciating each other.”

Topa said there is still plenty about COVID the medical and scientific communities haven’t unraveled yet, like why some people get sick and some don’t and he says it’s important that families understand that science can move slowly at times.