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COVID: Initial Vaccine Booster Availability Met with Low Turnout, Confusion

MORGAN HILL (KPIX 5) -- With millions of Bay Area residents now eligible to get COVID booster shots, local health officials are now ready to start distributing those vital third doses.

Boosters will now be available to people 65 and older as well as those age 50-64 with underlying health conditions. Those under 50 with at least one medical condition can also receive the booster.

While Santa Clara County officials already started administering Pfizer vaccine booster shots on Friday, there weren't too many people lining up to roll up their sleeves.

At a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Morgan Hill, the demand for booster shots was very low. Only two were given by lunch time.

COVID booster clinic
COVID booster clinic in Morgan Hill (CBS)

Assistant Chief Medical Officer for Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Dr. Jennifer Tong attributed the low turnout in large part to confusion.

"There was a lot of mixed messaging yesterday," Dr. Tong told KPIX 5.

A key sticking point Thursday in the CDC vote was those with occupational exposure. Dr. Grace Lee of Stanford chairs the committee that voted 9 to 6 against making those with potential work exposure eligible for boosters.

Dr Lee, however, disagreed with the committee.

"You know, we are running into workforce capacity issues in many health care delivery systems. I would say the same for teachers. We need to keep teachers healthy and make sure that they're able to come into the classroom," Lee told KPIX 5.

CDC Director Rachelle Wollensky overruled the panel Friday morning - making those with work exposures eligible.

Donna Amaro, who works for Santa Clara County Probation, made her appointment for a booster as soon as she knew. She'll get her booster shot next week.

"I think it's important to protect my family and the community and to make sure I'm safe as well from COVID," said Amaro.

While there is no line here in Morgan Hill on the first day of booster availability, Dr. Tong expects that to change.

"I think we will start to see an increase in demand for the boosters as people understand the eligibility and availability," she said.

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