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Area health districts offering updated boosters

A sign with its name display sits outside The Richmond City Health District.
Crixell Matthews
The Richmond and Henrico Health District offer vaccination against COVID-19 at weekly walk-up events, including one at the districts' office in Richmond's Monroe Ward. (File photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts began distributing recently approved bivalent COVID-19 vaccines at a Wednesday walk-up event. 

In a press conference Thursday morning, health district director Elaine Perry said the new shots bolster protection against the original COVID-19 strain, as well as the hyper-transmissible Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. 

“[Omicron is] what’s in our community right now. That’s what has been causing this significant burden of disease in the last months,” Perry said. 

The updated boosters were granted emergency use authorization by the FDA at the start of September. Pfizer’s booster is approved for people 12 and older, while Moderna’s is available only for those 18 and older. 

Although it’s too soon to gauge whether the updated boosters’ availability will increase the demand for shots in Richmond, Perry said she hopes they will encourage people who are overdue on immunizations to get caught up. 

“This is particularly important heading into the fall and winter months,” she said. 

Richmond and Henrico both recently moved from high to medium on the CDC’s COVID-19 community levels scale, but Perry said getting boosted and following current CDC guidance are especially important during cold and flu season. 

“The past two falls, remember, we have seen spikes, increases in COVID-19 cases,” she said. “But in general at this time of year, we do worry more about transmission of respiratory illnesses across the board.” 

Vaccination rates are still relatively low in Richmond, with 57.8% of residents considered fully vaccinated. The rate is higher in Henrico at 70.7% and even higher statewide at 72.5%. 

Perry said 3.8% of in-patient hospital beds in the two localities are being used by COVID-19 patients. 

The health districts host COVID-19 vaccine and booster walk-ups at rotating locations on Wednesdays and Thursdays, though officials recommend scheduling an appointment ahead of time. 

Boosters are available to individuals who received their last round of immunization — either the initial vaccine or another booster — at least two months ago. 

Health districts around the state are providing the updated boosters. Appointments can be scheduled online or by calling (877) 829-4682. 

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host. He began his career as a VPM News intern in 2019 and has covered pipelines, urban heat islands, the electric grid and more. You can find him biking in Bryan Park, petting neighborhood cats or listening to live music.