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Aspirus prepares for Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot rollout

Iron Mountain VA Medical Center
Iron Mountain VA Medical Center

A COVID-19 vaccine booster shot is now available to some people.

The CDC approved the Pfizer vaccine booster late last week.

CDC panel approved the shot for people 65 and older, residents in long-term care facilities and people 18 and older with under lying medical conditions.

The CDC director also added people 18 and older who are at higher risk to get COVID because of their jobs.

In addition to these conditions, you had to have gotten Pfizer for your first two shots. It should also be at least six months after your second shot.

Matt Brewer is the Vice President of Operations and Chief Nursing Officer for Aspirus Medical group.

He says the process is highly regulated.

“Every dose we track but then also with the patients, like all immunizations and vaccinations, we put them into a government base website, so we’re able to look those up. If you had gotten one even in North Carolina and you got one, it would go into some database, and we would most likely identify the vaccine prior to,” said Brewer.

The current vaccines available have shown to be incredibly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.

Brewer says this booster is an added protection for those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and should be made a priority.

“What we’re seeing in our hospitals right now, across the nation, is the sicker people are unvaccinated. Politics and everything else aside, truly, the people that are surviving this and walking out of the ICUs are usually vaccinated people,” said Brewer.

Aspirus will be one of the many health care facilities to administer the booster shot.

Brewer says Aspirus has enough Pfizer vaccine on hand to handle these groups of people that have just become eligible.

He also believes they’ll have enough staff to administer the shots, though it won’t be like the vaccine rollout last winter.

Brewer says during the last vaccine rollout, a lot of other clinics and sectors of the healthcare system were shutdown because we didn’t know as much about managing the spread of COVID to safely keep them open.

Now, there’s less staff to help with vaccinations because they’re doing their regular jobs.

“I think we feel confident that we’re able to manage this. I’ll tell you it’s not without struggles. We have some of the most amazing staff that I’ve ever worked with. I think that’s where the rubber meets the road,” said Brewer.

Brewer also doesn’t believe it will be a widespread pressure on the Aspirus system because of how vaccines were distributed in the winter.

Pfizer was the first vaccine to approved, but it was also the hardest to transport.

Large rural areas of the Northwoods got the Moderna and later the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Brewer says they’re able to see the number of how the different vaccines were distributed which helps in their planning.

“A fair amount of our population in the central region which is in the Wausau area didn’t get Pfizer. In those areas where we did give it in larger quantities is where we’re doing a lot more planning for being able to provide these boosters,” said Brewer.

Brewer urges people to use the online “My Aspirus” system to set an appointment to get the booster shot.

Vaccine providers are not administering the booster shots just yet.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services approved the booster shot Monday afternoon after reviewing the CDC guidelines.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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