Mysterious 'election integrity committee' puts pressure on York County officials

Pfizer booster may not be necessary, York County officials say

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
Karen Martin receives a COVID-19 vaccine Monday at a clinic in Springfield, Missouri. The state is contending with an enormous jump in coronavirus cases.

A declining vaccination rate in York County and elsewhere is just one reason why a third shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine may not be necessary, according to a local health official.

U.S. officials in a private meeting Monday told Pfizer that the company needs to provide more evidence that a booster is needed. The company has pitched an additional shot in an effort to target the delta variant, which is the most contagious variant of the virus, The New York Times reported.

“It does not seem that there is a terrible situation where a third (shot) is so urgent and everyone is in agreement,” said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director of the York City Health Bureau. “The demand for the vaccine is low right now, and there’s certainly parts of the world clamoring for vaccines.”

More:WellSpan Health to close York County's mass vaccination clinic

More:No signs of respiratory virus surge in York upon relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions

More:Realtors: We just don't have the surplus of homes to show in York County

More:Are layoffs imminent? What about the extra space? Questions linger as York County's ICE contract nears end

As of Thursday, the county's vaccination rate, or the rate of those receiving their first vaccine doses, had dropped by 21.2% since the previous 14-day period, according to state Health Department data.

The number decreased from 750 per 100,000 people to 591 per 100,000 over a 14-day period, continuing the downward trend the county has seen since late May.

In total, 14,302 York County residents have been partially vaccinated and 186,792 residents have been fully vaccinated.

Like Howie, state Health Department officials say they don't have the data to advocate for a booster shot, which Pfizer has said would take place six months after the second shot.

"While the Pennsylvania Department of Health has not received official information from the CDC about booster shots, we will continue to closely monitor the evolving information and be prepared to work with providers to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to the vaccine," said spokesperson Maggi Barton.

Any additional booster shot would require approval by the Food and Drug Administration, which, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has asserted there is not yet any data that shows a need for it.

Concerns over the delta variant have been rampant, but experts have said people don't have much to worry about if they're already fully vaccinated.

The most recent data from the CDC shows about 31.1% of test samples in the U.S. contained the variant.

That number is significantly lower in Pennsylvania, the most localized data the agency offers, where 5.3% of samples contained the variant. That's up from 3.4% the prior week.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 case counts in York County seem to be holding steady as some states report an increase in cases due to the delta variant.

Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Nevada in particular are seeing outbreaks, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

In Pennsylvania, the number of cases over a 14-day period has increased 41% over the previous 14-day period, the newspaper reported.

However, as of Thursday, York County had seen 27 cases per 100,000 people over the past 14-day period, according to state Health Department data. The case rate has hovered around that number for the past two weeks.

In total, York County has seen 47,161 COVID-19 cases and 835 deaths since the outbreak began.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.