Mae Oetjens, Contributing Writer
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts recently reopened its mass vaccination center at the Richmond Raceway, known as the Community Vaccination Center, according to the RHHD website.
The CVC is offering the initial COVID-19 vaccines as well as booster shots to those eligible for them. The Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson primary vaccines will all be available to anyone 12 years old and older at the CVC, according to VDH.
The CVC reopened on Oct. 12 and is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., according to VDH.
Availability for a booster shot is dependent on age, medical conditions and employment or residential setting, according to the Virginia Department of Health. In Virginia, anyone over the age of 65 or those living in a long-term care facility is eligible for a booster shot.
Additionally, individuals ages 18 to 64 with underlying medical conditions can receive a booster dose. Underlying medical conditions that may put people at high risk for COVID-19 include chronic diseases, cancer, pregnancy and substance use disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Virginia’s requirements for who can get the booster vaccine are the same as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to both websites.
Eligible VCU health science and university students will be able to receive a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from the university starting Nov. 1, according to VCU spokesperson Dedrain Davis.
“We offer both free COVID and Flu vaccines to all students through our Student Health clinics on each campus,” Davis stated. “We continue to partner with VCU Health System who supply the vaccines for our COVID vaccination clinics.”
On Sept. 22, the FDA officially authorized the emergency use of a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It was previously granted Emergency Use Authorization on Dec. 11, 2020.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine booster cannot be administered until six months after the two primary doses of the vaccine.
On Oct. 15, a FDA panel called the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted unanimously to authorize the Johnson & Johnson vaccine booster shot, according to the FDA’s website. The Johnson & Johnson shot is available to adults 18 and older who received the initial single-dose vaccine at least two months before, according to the company’s website.
The CDC and the FDA have not released information on vaccine mixing, or the act of getting a dose from a different company than the initial dose. However, the CDC has advised against vaccine mixing for the two primary doses of the vaccine.
The FDA is expected to announce an approval for booster vaccine mixing, according to The Washington Post. The FDA has not released an official statement on vaccine mixing as of Oct. 19.
Amy Popovich, a nurse manager at the RHHD, said the Raceway CVC is reopening because of its previous success in administering vaccines. Popovich said that the recent addition of the vaccine boosters is a reason for the CVC reopening.
“It is a way to ensure access for our community and for the broader Richmond area. Also for when the Pfizer vaccine gets authorized for five to 11 year olds,” Popovich said. “The raceway can serve as a larger administration site for vaccines to ensure that everybody has access.”
Popovich said the CVC was originally closed in May because of the progress made in vaccinations, leading RHHD to focus on smaller clinics. There have been over 12 million vaccine doses administered in Virginia and over 124,000 people in Richmond City have received a first dose, according to the VDH.
“The Raceway gave over 165,000 vaccines from January until the end of May,” Popovich said. “The strategy of vaccines changed once it was available for everyone.”
According to the VDH, 62.2% of Richmond City adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Henrico County, 77.7% of adults have received at least one dose.
Popovich said RHHD is still seeing people coming in for initial doses of the vaccines. RHHD has been conducting surveys with these people to see why they are going in for a vaccine now.
“About a third of folks are coming in because of it being mandated at their place of employment or a school setting. About a third are coming in because of family and friends encouraging them to get it and a third are various other reasons, including travel,” Popovich said.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the COVID-19 booster vaccine is an additional dose of the initial vaccine. The booster shot is meant to develop more antibodies to protect an individual from COVID-19.
“Typically, you would get a booster after the immunity from the initial dose(s) naturally starts to wane. The booster is designed to help people maintain their level of immunity for longer,” stated Dr. Lisa Maragakis and Dr. Gabor David Kelen of Johns Hopkins Medicine.