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Health Alert: COVID-19 Vaccination Urged Among Pregnant Persons, Older Adults

(ITHACA, NY, December 01, 2023) – Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) is reminding the community of the importance of staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Those most at risk for severity of illness include pregnant persons and infants who are not old enough to be vaccinated, as well as older adults and those with chronic health conditions. With the updated COVID-19 vaccine now more widely available at local pharmacies and healthcare locations, now is the time to seek vaccination if you have not already done so. It is essential to seek vaccination at the start of respiratory illness season to reduce severity of illness and reduce risk of hospitalization and death.

Pregnant persons and infants

COVID-19 vaccination administered before and during pregnancy is safe, effective, and beneficial for both the pregnant person and the infant. Safety monitoring of this subgroup is ongoing, with data demonstrating no increased risks of adverse events and no concerning patterns in maternal, fetal or infant outcomes. Comparatively, pregnant persons and infants are at increased risk of hospitalization due to illness from the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 illness during pregnancy is also associated with severe negative maternal health outcomes and negative pregnancy outcomes.

TCWH Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccinations is recommended for people who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or who might become pregnant in the future, and for people who are currently breastfeeding. The protections offered by vaccines will keep you healthy and provide essential antibodies to your infant, keeping them protected until they are able to be vaccinated directly. Talk to your OB-GYN or healthcare provider as you consider the benefits and risks of vaccination during pregnancy, to help you feel confident in making the best decision for you and your family.”

Older adults and those with chronic health conditions

Older adults (those aged 50 and older) are more likely than younger people to get very sick from COVID-19. The risk increases with age. This means they are more likely to need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe; the risk of death increases significantly as well. Most COVID-19 deaths occur in people older than 65. Those with chronic health conditions, such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, or a weakened immune system, are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Klepack continued, “Older adults and those with chronic health conditions should be advised to wear a high-quality, well-fitting face mask (either a KN95 or N95 style) when in crowded, indoor public settings, in addition to maintaining their COVID-19 vaccinations. Treatment for COVID-19 should be sought as soon as possible should you become ill with this virus. COVID-19 should still be taken seriously, especially among those most at risk of severe illness.”

To schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, call your primary care provider or schedule with a local pharmacy. You can also use the website www.vaccines.gov to find a location near you. If you need assistance in scheduling an appointment online, dial 2-1-1 to speak with the helpline. 

The new COVID-19 vaccine is available at our on-site immunization clinics for children and adults who are eligible for the state funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) and Vaccines for Adults (VFA) programs.

Children less than 19 years of age may be eligible for VFC if they:

  • Are currently enrolled in Medicaid.
  • Have Child Health Plus.
  • Are underinsured: their insurance does not cover the vaccine.
  • Do not have insurance.
  • Are Native American or Alaska Native.

Adults ages 19 and over may be eligible for VFA if they:

  • Are underinsured: your insurance does not cover the vaccine.
  • Do not have insurance.

To check your eligibility or to schedule an appointment time, call TCWH Community Health Services at 607-274-6604.

COVID-19 Test Kits and KN95 masks for youth and adults remain available at local libraries and municipal centers, free of cost, to Tompkins County residents. Tests and masks may also be picked up at our office at 55 Brown Road, Ithaca, during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm). For additional COVID-19 information, please visit our website: tompkinscountyny.gov/health/covid19.

Tompkins County Whole Health (formerly the Tompkins County Health Department) envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/TompkinsWholeHealth and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org