As Aina Langford prepared to receive her third dose of the Pfizer vaccine, she asked her vaccinator to warn her before sticking the needle in her arm.
“My doctor told me I needed to get the booster vaccine since my doctor is in Honolulu,” Langford said. “I’m just not a fan of needles.”
Langford is one of many residents who have received a Pfizer booster shot to combat COVID-19.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 24 approved the third Pfizer dose for people 18 years and older who have taken both doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.
Booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson &Johnson vaccines have not yet been approved.
Since the FDA’s approval of the third Pfizer doses, more and more people like Langford have been scheduling appointments for Hilo Medical Center’s vaccination clinic at The Arc of Hilo to get booster shots.
“We are doing a hundred more vaccinations than we were doing two weeks ago,” said Jaime Tangonan, pharmacy and vaccination coordinator. “A majority of those are additional doses, about 88%.”
While the HMC clinic is allowing walk-ins for first and second doses, appointments are required for third doses through the VAMS website.
“If you can’t get an appointment, or are having a hard time using the computer, we encourage people to ask for help,” Tangonan said. “We’ve been helping as we can over the phone, but cannot always get to everyone.”
As of Thursday, 37,439 people statewide have received third shots.
“When boosters were first approved, we were somewhat cautious to announce third shots because we wanted to make sure people who could benefit the most from extra protection would be first to get them,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state Department of Health. “It was a slow start to the program, but we’ve seen an increase in booster shots in recent days.”
According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, anyone 65 years and older, or those who are 50 years and older with underlying health conditions, should make a plan to get a booster shot.
Others who might want to consider getting the third Pfizer dose are those 18 and older with underlying health conditions, or those 18 and older who have a high risk for occupational or institutional exposure.
“If someone is over 18 and has received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine six months ago, then it’s up to the individual to determine the risk factors,” Baehr said. “If you come into contact with a lot of people through your job, then that may be a good reason to consider getting the third shot.”
Those who receive the third Pfizer shot should expect similar side effects such as fatigue and soreness on the arm.
“This is the same shot, just for a third time, so most people know what to expect,” Baehr said. “The side effects greatly outweigh the risk of COVID-19.”
While rolling out the booster doses, the state is still focusing on providing first and second shots.
There are 114,457 people statewide who are eligible for shots but are still unvaccinated.
“We have about 445,000 people who are not fully vaccinated, including children who are not eligible, which is enough to keep the virus moving,” Baehr said. “We can help protect each other and our children if we can get this 32% of the population fully vaccinated.”
The Arc of Hilo clinic, East Hawaii Health Clinic, Longs Drugs and Safeway are allowing walk-ins for first and second doses.
Longs Drugs in Keaau and Safeway in Hilo and Kona are offering the third dose of Pfizer through appointment or walk-in. KTA Super Stores is offering the third dose to severely immunocompromised individuals.
Eligible residents can make an appointment for booster shots at the Arc of Hilo at https://tinyurl.com/78t6vnbx.
Walk-ins for boosters are available at the East Hawaii Health Clinic from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Vaccination appointments at Longs Drugs can be made at https://tinyurl.com/3hjf4abn.
Appointments for Safeway’s pharmacies can be made at https://tinyurl.com/xavn9j95.
Appointments for KTA’s pharmacies can be made at https://tinyurl.com/3xxkfmr4.
Email Kelsey Walling at firstname.lastname@example.org