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Vaccine booster shots on horizon

(From CDC)

HOLLYWOOD — The Seminole Tribe is preparing to offer Covid-19 booster shots to those who meet eligibility requirements.

The tribe’s Health and Human Services (HHS) executive director, Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley, said Sept. 30 that the boosters would first be administered only to those who have previously received the Pfizer vaccine. She said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an emergency use authorization for a Pfizer booster shot for those who are 65 and older or are frontline workers. It can be administered six months after the second dose. Booster shots for those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not yet available, she said.

Kiswani-Barley said the virus continues to have a big impact on tribal members. She said the number of positive cases over the summer were the highest the tribe has seen since the early days of the pandemic. She cited one recent death and two critical hospitalizations, but also said there’s cause for some optimism.

“The tribe’s virus cases are starting to decrease slightly,” she said. “There’s a downward trend that mirrors what is being seen in other areas of the state.”

Kiswani-Barley said the tribe had a positivity rate of 11% for most of August and September. The highest rate during the pandemic was 14%. However, during a recent two-week period in September, the positivity rate declined to 8.4%.
If the rate continues to decline, she said, then it’s possible the tribe could lift certain pandemic restrictions it still has in place.

From Aug. 4 to Sept. 30 the tribe went from 800 tribal members vaccinated to 1,300 – a positive trend but still short of the vaccination goals that have been set by tribal leadership. There are about 3,000 tribal members who are eligible for the vaccine and the goal is to have at least 70% vaccinated, or about 2,100.

Meanwhile, tribal clinics have been administering a Covid-19 antibody treatment through Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for those who are eligible. Kiswani-Barley said there have been 10 tribal members who have received the treatment so far and that all have experienced good results.

Tribal members can call their local clinic or the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458 for more information about the vaccine, booster shot and antibody treatment. Tribal employees can call the hotline for vaccine information as well.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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