New Pfizer COVID-19 bivalent vaccine booster now available through MUSC Health

September 13, 2022
Henry Dubar receives the new Pfizer bivalent booster from pharmacist Jessica Tsekouras at the Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic. Photos by Cindy Abole

The decision was easy for Charleston couple Katherine and Henry Dunbar, who visited MUSC’s Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic in downtown Charleston. On Sept. 9, the Dunbars took turns receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech Bivalent COVID-19 vaccine for use as a booster aimed at Omicron’s dominant subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

Katherine Dunbar receives the Pfizer bivalent booster at the MUSC Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic. 
Katherine Dunbar receives the Pfizer bivalent booster from pharmacist Dr. Ashley Smith at the MUSC Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic.

For both, it was their third booster but the first Omicron-specific booster, as it was just authorized for distribution by the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to supplement the original COVID-19 vaccines in America’s fight against the coronavirus.

Katherine Dunbar got hers first. “My husband is a cancer survivor and has a low immune system, so we’re very protective. I want to stay up to date for both him and me. We’re both of the mindset, ‘We do what we can to make sure things get done,’” she said. 

Rutledge Tower outpatient clinical pharmacist Jignesh “Jay” Patel, Pharm.D., elected to get his booster that same morning. Patel, who is part of the pharmacy team at the Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic distributing the new booster to employees and patients, also believes the decision to get the new booster is a “no-brainer” to him.

“I was first in line when the first COVID-19 boosters came out in late 2021,” said Patel. “I believe in the science and know the booster works for me. I want to be protected and feel that the more people who are protected, the better off we are as a society.”

The bivalent booster can be administered at least two months after completing the primary vaccination series. Patients 12 years and older, who are not moderately or severely immunocompromised, can receive the booster at the Rutledge Tower Vaccine Clinic, by appointment and walk-ins, and at MUSC Health primary care clinics, by appointment only.

Pharmacist Dr. Jay Patel gives a thumbs up after receiving the Pfizer bivalent booster on Sept. 9. 
MUSC Rutledge Tower outpatient pharmacist Dr. Jay Patel, right, gives the thumbs up along with clinical pharmacy specialist Mike Askarian. Patel received the Omnicron booster on Sept. 9.

Sean Nelson, director of the MUSC Health-Charleston Division Ambulatory Services Primary Care, spoke about the strategy behind the vaccine booster distribution.

“Our goal was simple - as soon as the vaccine was made available to MUSC Health, our objective was to make sure that our clinics and providers had access to the vaccine to begin administering to patients. Starting in October, our goal will be to provide the bivalent vaccine along with the influenza vaccine for our patients as well,” said Nelson.

Plans for distribution of the bivalent booster were also announced for MUSC Health’s Florence and Lancaster divisions to begin Sept. 12.