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Champaign County Launching COVID Booster Clinics And Preparing To Vaccinate Kids

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In this Aug. 28, 2021, file photo, Mayra Navarrete, 13, receives the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from registered nurse, Noleen Nobleza at a clinic set up in the parking lot of CalOptima in Orange, Calif. With more than 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines available, U.S. health authorities said they're confident both seniors and other vulnerable Americans seeking booster shots and parents anticipating approval of initial shots for young children will have easy access.

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-area residents who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and qualify for a booster have many options for getting the shot locally.

Awais Vaid, deputy administrator and epidemiologist with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, says all local pharmacies and other providers are offering boosters — as well as first and second doses — to anyone who is eligible. 

And starting Tuesday, Oct. 5, more options will become available. People can make an appointment through Carle to attend a clinic set up at the Kohl’s Plaza in Champaign. And for those at greatest risk of infection due to waning immunity, C-U Public Health will open a walk-in clinic at the iHotel and Conference Center in Champaign.

“We are prioritizing anyone 50 and older with underlying health conditions, and [anyone] 65 and older for the walk-in clinic,” Vaid says. “We want to make it easier for the highest-risk categories to get the boosters as soon as possible.”

The iHotel clinic will be open for walk-ins, from Oct. 5 – 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vaid says showing your vaccination card is not required but is recommended for documentation purposes.

On Sept. 24, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed a CDC advisory panel’s recommendation for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in certain populations. That guidance was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and adopted by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Here’s who the CDC recommends for a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine:

  • people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions should receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series,
  • people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks, and
  • people aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months after their Pfizer-BioNTech primary series, based on their individual benefits and risks.

Vaid says that in addition to health care workers and first responders, anyone 18 and older who works in a setting where they are exposed to people whose vaccination status is unknown — including grocery store workers and restaurant staff — are eligible for a booster.

Vaid says the health district has been receiving many questions from people about boosters and third doses, asking whether they can mix and match vaccines — between Moderna and Pfizer (the only two vaccines approved for third doses). The CDC’s current guidance states the same mRNA vaccine should be used for the booster or third dose. 

Prior to the FDA authorization of booster shots in August, the agency authorized a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccines (limited to only the mRNA vaccines, Pfizer or Moderna) for people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems. The third dose of the vaccine can be given anytime 28 days after receiving the second dose.

In addition to rolling out booster shots for eligible populations, Vaid says C-U Public Health is also preparing for the authorization of vaccines for children as young as five — which could come as early as mid-October.

Local health care partners — including Carle and the University of Illinois — are already vaccinating children 12 and older, so all the logistics are in place to move to even younger kids, Vaid says.

C-U Public Health is also in talks with local school officials to explore the rollout of school-based vaccine clinics.

“When [children] 12 and older got eligible, we did vaccine clinics at the schools,” Vaid says. “We will probably set up similar clinics at the schools.”

Clinics inside schools make it easy, he says, because kids are already there for class. The health district provides the doses and the school nurses administer the shots to children whose parents or guardians have consented.

Results from a clinical trial studying the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 showed promising results, according to an announcement made last week. 

Pfizer says it will put in a request for emergency use authorization soon, and the FDA could make its decision within a few weeks.

The following information was provided by C-U Public Health, regarding booster vaccination clinics:

Upcoming community clinics include:

iHotel and Conference Center – 1900 S. 1st Street, Champaign

Pfizer booster vaccinations will be given to individuals meeting the following criteria:

  • 65 years of age or older, 50-64 years of age with underlying health conditions, healthcare workers, and first responders who have completed their 1st and 2nd doses of Pfizer
  • Must be at least 6 months after the 2nd dose
  • Walk-in; no appointment needed
  • October 5th – 7th
  • 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Kohl’s Plaza – 1901 N. Market Street, Champaign

Pfizer booster vaccinations are available to all eligible individuals at this location.

  • Booster appointments can be scheduled through MyCarle and at carle.org/covid-19
  • October 5th – 7th, 12th – 14th, 19th – 21st 
  • 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Pharmacies:

Additional note:

Eligibility for the community-based COVID-19 Pfizer booster vaccination clinics will continue to expand based on the criteria set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Additional information on COVID-19 vaccinations can be found at: https://www.c-uphd.org/covid-vaccinations.html.

Christine Herman is a reporter at Illinois Public Media. Follow her on Twitter: @CTHerman

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated with additional information about upcoming booster clinics in Champaign County. An earlier version of the story misstated the date that the Kohl’s Plaza and iHotel clinics become available. Those clinics begin on Tues., Oct. 5.

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. We recommend checking the Coronavirus Information Center for the most recent numbers and guidance.

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Christine Herman

Christine Herman

Christine Herman is a Ph.D. chemist turned audio journalist who covers health for the Illinois Newsroom. Her reporting for Illinois Public Media/WILL has received awards from the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the Public Media Journalists Association and has reached both regional and national audiences through WILL's health reporting partnership with Side Effects Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Christine started at WILL in 2015.

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