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North Carolina responds to boosters for frontline workers

The CDC announced at-risk workers are included in the recommendation for Pfizer boosters.
Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 9:48 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - For Greenville Fire/Rescue, the opportunity to get a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine comes amid a time when hundreds of public safety officers died in the U.S. from contracting the virus on the job.

“Unfortunately, we see line of duty deaths from anything, but especially it’s occurring more often now with COVID, so it does bring it home that it’s a risk we take every day we put on the uniform,” Greenville Battalion Chief Jesse Harris said.

On Friday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky included workers ages 18-64 in occupational or institutional settings in the recommendation for booster COVID-19 shots because they are at high-risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission.

The category includes teachers, whose health are integral to Pitt County Schools.

Jennifer Johnson, public information officer for Pitt County Schools, said 77% of the entire staff, including teachers and administration, are vaccinated, according to a survey released at the beginning of the new school year.

“Pitt County Schools realizes that boosters are available for our educators and they are on the front lines, so we do encourage our educators and staff members and bus drivers to really talk to their healthcare provider about that resource,” Johnson said. “Any added bonus or added resource that we can provide or can be provided to our educators that are on the front lines, is always a good thing.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety said they’re prepared to provide boosters to both staff and offenders in prisons, but said it’s worth nothing that “the overwhelming majority of our staff and offenders who were vaccinated received the Moderna vaccine.”

The CDC said it will evaluate available data with similar urgency in the coming weeks to swiftly make additional recommendations for other populations or people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Meanwhile, the idea of extra protection doesn’t hurt Greenville Fire/Rescue’s efforts to continue encouraging staff to get vaccinated.

Harris said they have about 170 staff and more than half are vaccinated.

“We’re still pushing that employees get vaccinated and we’ll make every opportunity for folks as the booster becomes available and encourage that as well.”

Greenville Battalion Chief Jesse Harris said.

On Friday, the Lenoir County Health Department said it received notice from the state that it can begin giving boosters for some populations who received Pfizer, and will be messaging more details in the days to come.

Beaufort County Health Department announced they’ll begin offering Pfizer booster shots every Wednesday, from 12:15 p.m. to 4 p.m. starting on Oct. 13. Appointments are required.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services said in a press release those eligible can find booster shots at their health care provider, pharmacies and other locations where COVID-19 vaccines are available.

“There is no need for people to go back to the location where they received their original vaccines — most COVID-19 vaccination locations can provide Pfizer boosters,” the DHHS said.

The state’s Department of Transportation said public transit agencies are ready to assist people seeking vaccine booster shots.

Those who qualify are individuals who have been fully vaccinated for six months or more with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“People who are 65 years or older, 18 years or older with underlying medical conditions or work in a high-risk setting like healthcare workers, teachers and childcare providers or food workers are eligible in North Carolina,” the DHHS said.

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