Dartmouth Health puts employee COVID booster mandate on hold, citing supply issues

  • A nurse at a Walgreens pharmacy near Florida International University's Tamiami campus on 107th Avenue in Miami-Dade shows a patient the newly formulated Moderna bivalent vaccine on Sept. 7, 2022. The vaccine is an "updated booster" designed to target not only the original COVID-19 strain, but also omicron BA.4 and BA.5, which had surged in the U.S. in 2022. (Howard Cohen/Miami Herald/TNS) Howard Cohen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/17/2022 1:00:20 AM
Modified: 9/17/2022 12:59:51 AM

LEBANON — Dartmouth Health has delayed its COVID-19 booster requirement for employees “until further notice” due to difficulty obtaining enough of the new bivalent vaccine, according to a Wednesday message DH’s chief human resources officer sent to all DH employees.

Last month, DH announced that employees would be required to get boosters by Nov. 4. That was in addition to the initial primary series the health system began requiring last fall. Since last month’s announcement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has changed its booster recommendation to require the use of the new bivalent vaccine, which targets more than one strain of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“This change in guidance occurred with short notice and we, like many other organizations, are experiencing issues in obtaining enough of the new bivalent vaccine to appropriately respond,” Aimee Claiborne, DH’s chief human resources officer, said in Wednesday’s message.

The health system still requires that employees get their annual flu shot by Nov. 4.

During the pause in the booster requirement, Claiborne said, DH continues to encourage employees to receive the bivalent booster if they are eligible. It can be scheduled through DH’s online patient portal myDH.org.

DH has a “limited supply of vaccine from the state, and we are trying to ensure that those employees who wish to be boosted can be, while balancing the needs of our community,” Cassidy Smith, a DH spokeswoman, said Friday.

Smith said DH also encourages people to check vaccines.gov for listings of pharmacies in their communities.

In New Hampshire, as of Friday, 138,200 Pfizer and Moderna bivalent doses had been delivered, said Laura Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, 11,900 more doses are in transit and expected to arrive early next week.

“Currently, there is plenty of Pfizer bivalent doses available to order, but Moderna’s next allocation will be the week of Sept. 19 at the earliest,” Montenegro said. “There is plenty of vaccine available, if a patient is willing to get the Pfizer presentation.”

In Vermont, 17,500 doses of the new bivalent booster vaccine have arrived at the Vermont Department of Health, said Ben Truman, a health department spokesman. The department also had ordered another 12,600 doses on Monday that it expects this week. He said he anticipated some Moderna doses will be available for ordering as soon as Friday.

“Supplies of vaccine are coming in generally at the pace we expected, and we continue to order our allocated doses,” Truman said. “Physician offices are starting to order as well, and we expect those to begin arriving within a week. Many pharmacies are offering the vaccine as well.”

Truman said issues related to the manufacturer of the Moderna booster have impacted supply. However, he said, people who come to the department’s walk-in clinics can opt for the Pfizer dose if Moderna is unavailable.

Information about the vaccine, as well as Vermont vaccine clinics, is online at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

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