Island health officials are preparing for another major COVID-19 vaccine initiative over the fall and winter months following the White House COVID-19 Task Force recommendation that individuals receive a booster shot due to waning immunity and the prevalence of the Delta variant.
Town Health Department Director Roberto Santamaria believes the new push could amount to another 20,000 vaccine doses needed to be administered when taking into account booster shots for those already vaccinated, plus the expected approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 12.
The current recommendation is that individuals receive a booster shot eight months after becoming fully vaccinated (completion of the two-dose sequence). That means thousands of people will be seeking a booster shot in October and November.
“It will be the same demand we saw in February and March, with the only difference being the supply is OK now,” Santamaria said.
At Nantucket Cottage Hospital, President and CEO Gary Shaw says he sees the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination effort as yet another collaboration between the hospital and the town, but this time with more players at the table to help offset some of the demand.
Shaw said he does not foresee opening another mass vaccination clinic like the one the hospital operated last winter and spring at the VFW. One major reason is the hospital’s capacity to staff such an effort.
“We have been crushed all summer with healthcare demand with individuals who have come to our ER, OB (obstetrics), primary care clinics, and for PCR testing,” Shaw said. “We don’t have the ability today to suddenly start doing 400 doses per day. We’re stretched to the max with (PCR testing). So we’re not projecting we’re going to be the sole source for vaccines. We want to be one of many locations that do it.”
The hospital and the town hope to be getting more information from the state regarding vaccine availability and resources by the first week in September.
Earlier this year, from early February through May, the hospital staff running the VFW clinic administered more than 16,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, helping Nantucket achieve one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.