O.C. community health centers already planning for COVID booster rush

The announcement of boosters possibly becoming available before 2022 has Orange County health officials stepping up their game to prepare for a surge of people seeking a third dose.
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Oakland County Health Department emergency preparedness specialist fills a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine dose on Aug. 24, 2021 in Michigan. In September, officials in California's Orange County announced they're preparing for a surge of people once boosters become available. Photo credit Emily Elconin/Getty Images

Before vaccines were publicly available, testing lines across most counties spilled out of parking lots and into the streets. Once vaccine eligibility opened up a similar surge occurred - making appointments hard to come by.

In an update last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci said he expected the United States to begin distributing a Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot by the end of the month.

The announcement has health officials thinking about how to handle a possible rush for boosters, including O.C. Health officials. They said they are working to prepare staff and facilities for a mass of people coming into clinics.

“The clinics are shifting, thinking about shifting those resources,” Isabel Becerra said. Becerra is the CEO of the Coalition of O.C. Community Health Centers.

“They have to think about how do they accommodate their facilities. Their parking lots? How do they convert back,” she said.

“In one case a wellness center was completely repurposed for the vaccination efforts [earlier this year]. Everyone’s looking at their plans internally.”

Health centers have already noticed an uptick since the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for people 12 and older, according to Becerra.

She said she only expects more people to show up once a booster is available, and O.C. health centers are working to step up their capabilities so they can organize community vaccination events in the coming months.

The Biden administration announced in August that efforts to create a booster for Americans were underway. The effort is still pending approval from public health officials.

The U.S. recommends a third shot to be given eight months after the second dose, according to CNBC.