First Missionary Baptist Church of Metropolis is partnering with the State of Illinois to host “A Day of Vaccination Action.”

The free vaccine clinic will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Saturday Nov. 27, rain or shine in the church’s family life center, located at Seventh and Vienna streets.

Conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the clinic is designed for the whole family, serving children over 5 years of age, as well as initial and booster shots.

Vaccines will be given on a first come basis, and no appointment is needed, but sign-up is available at https://tinyurl.com/5enmhmcf.

The clinic will provide the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

For more information on the clinic, call 1-800-889-3931, email dph.sick@illinois.gov or visit www.dph.illinois.gov.

The IDPH, following the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to open COVID-19 booster shots to all, is recommending anyone 18 years and older get a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose six months after receiving their second Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, or two months after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“For continued, ongoing protection, we are urging everyone who is eligible to get a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine to get one,” said IDPH director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “Scientific and medical experts have reviewed the data and found booster doses are beneficial. While we need more people who are completely unvaccinated to get their first doses, we cannot risk losing some of the protection the vaccines have already provided due to waning immunity.”

Early data show that the vaccines effectiveness against COVID-19 infections is decreasing over time. The lower effectiveness is likely due to the combination of decreasing protection as time passes since getting vaccinated, as well as the greater infectiousness of the Delta variant.

“Getting a booster shot is not uncommon. This happens every year with seasonal flu vaccine,” said Ezike. “While you should get the same type of vaccine for both your first and second doses, the CDC has said mix and matching vaccines for booster shots is allowed. For example, if you received two doses of the Moderna vaccine, you may opt to get a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for your booster dose. Or if you received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you may choose Moderna for your booster dose. You just need to wait six months after your second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, or two months after your one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”

Individuals can contact their health care provider or visit www.vaccines.gov to find a nearby location to receive a booster dose. People who have questions about vaccines and booster doses can call the COVID-19 Call Center at 1-833-621-1284.

As of Friday, Nov. 19, the Southern Seven region has five counties of its seven counties — Massac, Union, Johnson, Alexander and Hardin — at the Orange Warning Level status on the COVID-19 risk metrics. Massac County had 185 potential new cases (based on 26 positive cases) per 100,000 reported. The test positivity percentage for the county was 4.9% out of 465 tests. ICU availability was 18.1%.

As of Tuesday, Massac County has had 2261 cumulative COVID cases since the pandemic began in the region in April 2020. Of those, 2184 have recovered and 26 are active. There have been 52 deaths, with three of those being since Nov. 1 — one male in his 60s, one female in her 70s and one male in his 80s.

From Oct 28 through Nov. 22, Southern Seven reported 85 new cases of COVID in Massac County.

As of Tuesday, 10,686 Massac Countians have received the vaccine since it became available in December 2020. Of that number, 4865 have been fully vaccinated — meaning 34.55% of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated.

There have been 10,967 cumulative cases in the Southern Seven region since the pandemic began in the region in April 2020. The Southern Seven region has had 178 deaths since the pandemic began.

A total of 29,112 variant cases have been reported in the state through Tuesday.

Low flu vaccination rates a growing concern

While healthcare professionals continue to watch COVID-19 case numbers go back up throughout the nation, concerns about the low number of people getting their flu shot begins to surface.

According to the CDC, the number of people getting the vaccine is significantly down from last year’s flu season. As of October 2021 nationwide, 150.4 million people have received their flu shot compared with 174.3 million during the same time period in 2020. This number includes everyone 6 months and older from all demographics. This trend began the first week of vaccinating back in August 2021. According to predicted models from the CDC, if this trend continues vaccination rates could be slightly less than they were during the 2019-2020 flu season.

Southern Seven began offering its annual flu shots this past September. The department reports that as of the end of October, 560 vaccinations have been given compared with 917 during the same time period in 2020.

Jennifer Shackles, Southern Seven’s Communicable Disease manager, stated the current drop in flu vaccinations could be the result of several factors, including less attention given to getting a flu shot due to COVID, to concerns by some patients that the flu vaccine also contains the COVID-19 vaccine. Recently, the CDC approved giving flu and COVID vaccines at the same time. Shackles stated that with this approval came hesitancy by some to get a flu shot.

“While you can get both vaccines on the same day, each shot is given from two different vials and syringes,” Shackles said. “There is no shot that contains both flu and COVID-19 vaccines. They are separate shots.”

While a large number of the population got their flu shot during last year’s flu season, just over 1600 people who tested for flu tested positive.

“While this is good news in one respect, it also means that continued natural immunity was interrupted,” Shackles said. “For anyone who didn’t get a flu shot last year, or have the flu, their natural immunity is lower. Those individuals are at an increased risk for severe flu illness, hospitalization and death.”

So who should get a flu shot? Everyone who is able to, but especially anyone over age 65, those with weakened immune systems or serious health conditions, the very young and those who didn’t get the vaccine last year. The department offers regular and high dose flu vaccine. High dose is for anyone 65+ or has an immune deficiency or other severe medical condition.

For more information about this year’s flu vaccine or to schedule a flu vaccine appointment, contact Southern Seven at 618-634-2297 or visit southern7.org.

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