Health, News

County Health Department prepping for arrival of new COVID vaccines

With news that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) endorsed the newest COVID-19 shot for those age six months and older, the Washington County Health Department has prepared for when and if shipments of the vaccine arrive locally, the agency said in a press release last month.

“The new boosters are a much closer match to currently circulating variants than prior vaccines, so at this time, we are ending our COVID-19 vaccination clinics that we had originally scheduled through the end of 2023, in anticipation of next steps from the state,” explains Earl Stoner, health officer at the Washington County Health Department.

“Once Maryland receives a supply and distributes throughout the state, we will be able to better judge what we can offer to our community.”

The new COVID-19 vaccines target an omicron variant and replace vaccines that provided protection against the original coronavirus strain and older omicron variants.

It’s been a year since the last time the vaccines were updated and the coronavirus continually churns out new variants that can dodge prior immunity.

“At this time, we encourage everyone six months of age or older to visit their primary care provider or a local pharmacy to receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine, especially those age 65 and older; those with weakened immune systems or certain other medical conditions such as chronic lung disease, obesity, advanced diabetes or kidney disease; and pregnant people,” says Stoner. “Go ahead and get your flu shot while you are there, since the two can be given at the same time and we are entering respiratory virus season.”

The Washington County Health Department recommends that those with any symptoms of a cold or respiratory infection use an at-home COVID-19 test kit to check for the virus. These kits and KN95 masks continue to be offered at no cost to the public for pick up in the lobbies of both health department locations – 1302 Pennsylvania Ave., and 925 N. Burhans Blvd., in Hagerstown. As long as the supplies continue to come in, the health department will offer these resources.

Officials at the health department remind the public that:

—Like earlier versions, the COVID-19 vaccination is expected to be most protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, rather than mild infection. COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising since late summer, with high rates among adults ages 65 and older and children younger than 6 months, according to CDC data.

—You’ll get a boost in immunity within about two weeks after getting the shot that could reduce your risk of severe COVID symptoms, and that protection will likely last for a few months.

—A big reason to get boosted is that it may reduce the chance that you’ll pass on the virus to someone vulnerable around you, including your own family.

—There’ s accumulating evidence that vaccination reduces the risk of long COVID among both children and adults.

—Federal health officials say if it’s been at least two months since your last booster, go ahead and get the new one. The CDC says people who’ve had a recent infection may wait three months to get a booster.

If the health department is able to offer vaccines in the community in the coming weeks, clinic days, times and locations will be provided to the public through its website – – on its social media pages and through the local media.