Vegas, Reno Health Officials: Vaccine Boosters Coming Soon

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Top Nevada health administrators say they expect COVID-19 booster shots will become widely available by the end of next week for residents who received Pfizer vaccines, following guidance from federal health officials and state officials.

Dr. Fermin Leguen, the Southern Nevada Health District's chief, stressed Friday during a video conference call with reporters that getting first shots into arms remained a priority, even while people who received Pfizer vaccines last spring get free booster shots at about 50 pharmacy, grocery store and clinic sites in and around Las Vegas.

“I just want to emphasize that our primary target today is still people who have not received any dose of the vaccine ... unvaccinated people,” Leguen said. “The booster doses that we’ll be offering very soon, hopefully starting next week, are very important as well.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed extra doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans who received two Pfizer shots last spring. Boosters have not been approved for people who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The CDC directed its guidance to Pfizer recipients 65 and older; nursing home and assisted living residents; those ages 50 to 64 with health problems including cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV infection and heart disease; and those 18 to 64 with underlying health conditions. Officials have said millions of people qualify nationally.

In the Las Vegas area, Leguen said he didn’t immediately know how many people are eligible for boosters. But Sarah Lugo, district community health nurse supervisor, said there is plentiful supply.

The health district posted a summary of its recommendations about boosters.

“In addition to the pharmacies and the grocery stores and the Targets and the other stores that have it, or the doctors offices that have it, we have 12 static sites that already have an untapped capacity,” Lugo told reporters. “Right now, we have about 20% of the capacity being filled ... so we have room for more people to come.”

State health officials report that 65% of eligible people in Las Vegas and Clark County have gotten at least one dose of vaccine and 54% are fully vaccinated. The first-dose percentage is below 40% in some rural parts of the state. In Washoe County, it's nearly 64%.

Statewide, Nevada passed 7,000 deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, while disease measurements in the Las Vegas area continued improving.

Test positivity, a measure of the number of people tested who are positive for COVID-19, was 8.8% in Clark County. Statewide, the figure was 10.9%. It was 17.6% in Washoe County.

“The trend of COVID in Clark County is really decreasing since probably about four or five weeks ago,” Leguen said.

In the Reno-Sparks area, where hospital staffing has raised concern, Dick said this week he didn’t foresee trouble meeting demand for Pfizer shots.

“We are working on staffing plans and believe will be able to accommodate boosters,” Dick told reporters Wednesday.

Dick said the National Guard was continuing to assist at the county’s main hub at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center, where more than 700 boosters have been administered to people who qualified as especially vulnerable because of health conditions.

In other developments, Reno City Manager Doug Thornley told city employees Friday they will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as the Moderna vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Reno also now requires new hires to be vaccinated as a condition of employment.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve announced Thursday night she will work from home for 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.

Schieve said on Twitter that she had been vaccinated but got tested because she wasn’t feeling well. She noted she is “immunocompromised” and said her symptoms were mild.

Schieve had kidney failure and received a donated kidney from her sister in the 1990s.