Wisconsin vaccinators ready to get Pfizer boosters in arms

NOW: Wisconsin vaccinators ready to get Pfizer boosters in arms

Updated: 8:47 p.m.. on Sept. 24, 2021

By Adam Rife

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- On Friday, Sept. 24, a Milwaukee-area pharmacy started offering booster shots to the wider population.

Hayat Pharmacy says the phones were ringing off the hook all day as people clamored for more information.

The pharmacy already administered four or five booster shots on this first day.

That process should be fairly similar to what people went through with their first doses, but since not everyone is eligible there are still a lot of questions.

Getting a booster shot was an easy decision for a Milwaukee woman who wished to remain anonymous.

She said, "I just lost two nieces in August, 17 and 18, within a week, they were unvaccinated. It's taking a toll on everybody. The children, senior citizens, young people." She was one of the first to get the booster at the Hayat Pharmacy location on Layton.

"We have new tools and this is just a new tool we need to use in order to win in this pandemic" said Dr. Hashim Zaibak the pharmacy's CEO.

The State of Wisconsin can now administer booster shots for more people who got their first Pfizer shots six months ago.

It's a specific list of people, and many in the medical community acknowledge eligibility may be confusing at first, but UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof said, "The thing I'm most reassured by is the points that are being debated really don't have anything to do with safety or efficacy. Those are the things I care most about."

A lot of people were calling pharmacies Friday trying to get information, many were also walking in.

Hayat Pharmacy hired more people in preparation and partnered with the University of Wisconsin Nursing School to have extra staff on hand.

Dr. Zaibak said, "We have to be able to answer the questions based on the current guidelines.

Because today's current guidelines are not the same as we had a few days ago."

He says his pharmacy got a lot of questions about boosters for children older than 12.

This booster is only for people 18 and older.

Officials encourage people to contact their pharmacists with any questions.

Published: 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 24, 2021

By Rose Schmidt

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Wisconsin vaccinators are ready to administer COVID-19 booster shots to certain groups of people who got the Pfizer vaccine six months ago following a decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Hashim Zaibak, owner of Hayat Pharmacy said he got the green light around 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon and was able to administer a handful of booster doses. She said his phones were ringing off the hook all morning.

Late Thursday evening, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations made by a CDC advisory panel. Under her recommendations, people aged 65 and older should get a booster along with people aged 50 to 64 with underlying health conditions. She said people aged 18 to 49 with underlying health conditions may get a booster. 

In an unusual twist, Walensky went against the advisory panel by saying people who are at higher risk of catching COVID-19 due to "occupational or institutional setting" may get a booster. 

"The point of discussion is around how broad should the scope of boosters be and what incremental level of protection do we really want or need in the United States right now," said Dr. Jeff Pothof, chief quality officer of UW Health.

Wisconsin doctors say after days of debating and discussions at the federal level, their goal is to get boosters in arms.

"I think there's trying to strike a balance between the logistics, the cost, the effort that it takes to carry out a vaccination campaign with the benefit that you get from it," Pothof said.

Rob Gundermann, president and CEO of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging and Health Groups, said he doesn't think the CDC's decision goes far enough.

"There isn't something magic that happens between the time you're 64 and your birthday at 65," Gundermann said. "I would much prefer that they open this up to everyone, to be honest. We know that the vaccine is available."

Gina Dennik-Champion, executive director of the Wisconsin Nurses Association, said offering boosters to health care workers could be one solution to help with staffing issues amid the dire labor shortage.

"I think that provides a level of reassurance for those nurses that are caring for those individuals or caring for those folks that don't have COVID but they're also all very sick," Dennik-Champion said.

Brandon Scholz, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Grocers Association, said anyone who has been on the front lines of the pandemic deserves to get a booster and has a responsibility to go get one when they can.

"This (pandemic) is not necessarily going to end tomorrow. It could be another six months. It could be into next year," Scholz said. "We need to be prepared to do this for the long haul. The booster shots are welcome part of that effort, and I think you'll see the industry respond very positively."

A spokesperson from the Milwaukee Health Department told CBS 58 it's awaiting guidance from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and hopes to have more information to share on Monday.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake released a statement around 1:30 p.m. Friday saying:

“DHS is aware of the recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that people 65 and older and certain populations who are at high risk of COVID-19 receive a booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after the completion of their Pfizer vaccine primary series. This decision follows the authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once CDC’s clinical guidance becomes available, our experts will conduct a thorough review. After they complete their review, we will update our vaccination guidance accordingly. As we take these steps, we ask Wisconsinites to please be patient. There is ample vaccine supply, and everyone who is recommended for a booster dose will receive one."

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