Omicron boosters available San Miguel County Public Health offering second ‘bivalent’ COVID vaccines
Via Telluride News By Leslie Vreeland Contributing Editor
Omicron boosters available: San Miguel County Public Health offering second ‘bivalent’ COVID vaccines
The graphic above depicts spike mutations in the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV-2 (in yellow, red and green), compared to the original strain of the virus, according to World Health Organization data. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)
COVID-19 vaccines “work well to protect people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying,” a message on San Miguel County’s public health website reads.
There is a catch, however. Like certain other vaccines — such as the annual inoculation against influenza, which changes every year — protection against COVID wanes over time, and therefore requires topping up.
Second boosters targeting the Omicron variant of COVID were recently approved for ages 65 and up, as well as immunocompromised individuals, and the county will offer them in weekly walk-in clinics, beginning Wednesday, May 3
“The vaccines are free, regardless of insurance,” Grace Franklin, the county’s public health director, said. “Even with the public health emergency ending, this does not end access to this preventative care.”
Indeed, even if there are “shifts in payment expectations” this fall, Franklin emphasized, SMCPH “has funding sources to provide free/low cost vaccines to anyone without insurance.”
In short, COVID vaccines — and boosters — will continue to remain available, and affordable, to all, this autumn (when the latest, updated version of the vaccine will be on offer).
The county is offering walk-in COVID clinics every Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. through the end of May for ages six months and up at the public health department, located at 333 W. Colorado Ave. Book an appointment online by visiting sanmiguelcountyco.gov, and following the COVID link.
“If you have insurance, please bring your insurance card to your vaccine appointment,” Franklin said. Although no copays are required for this visit, “providers can receive a small administration fee from insurance which helps offset our costs.”
Identification “is not required in the State of Colorado” in order to receive a COVID vaccine, or a booster (“this is a state regulation to remove barriers to care,” Franklin explained). Along those same lines, “Offices are allowed to ask for an ID, but not providing one cannot stop a person from receiving this service, per state regulation. Medical history is taken at the patient’s word, particularly if a person is immunocompromised.”
All of this said, “Public health will request each person’s COVID vaccine history to ensure we’re following FDA vaccine schedules,” Franklin added. “It’s gotten quite complicated now, and we want to make sure we get it right!”
Both county health centers — SMCPH and Uncompahgre Medical Center, in Norwood — are currently carrying Moderna bivalent vaccines.
Both “Moderna and Pfizer options are available,” Franklin said. “We no longer carry J&J vaccines. We do, however, have Novavax…it sounds like Novavax is working toward a bivalent vaccine for the fall.”
“We’ve only had a handful of people reach out and register for a second booster so far, but expect it to pick up over the next month or so,” Franklin added.
The situation is different right now in Ouray County, where vaccine appointments “are totally filled up this week,” the county’s health director, Tanner Kingery, said.
COVID vaccines are available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at public health offices at 302 Second Street in downtown Ouray. Call 970-325-4670 to schedule an appointment.
FREE FENTANYL TEST STRIPS AND NARCAN AVAILABLE
The FDA recently approved Narcan, the nasal spray to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, for sale over-the-counter (the cost is expected to be about $50).
Fentanyl test strips, which can detect the presence of fentanyl in unregulated drugs — at a cost of about $1 per strip — are also available.
“We’re thrilled that over-the-counter options will be available, but recognize barriers to accessing them,” Franklin said, whether the barriers come from costs, or forms to fill out, or certain medical systems. “Both of these resources” — the spray, and the strips — “are key components” when it comes to harm reduction.
“People will be using drugs, and not everyone can, or wants to, quit,” Franklin said. “The harm reduction approach helps individuals make informed choices about drug use.”
SMCPH will have both Narcan and test strips available free of charge.
The harm-reduction philosophy “is a very, meet-people-where-they-are approach, offering individuals the respect and support needed to take care of their own health,” Franklin said. The website HarmReduction.org offers “evidence-based information,” she added, for those who would like to learn more.
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