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COVID-19 booster crowd get their shots while push for first doses continues

As people line up for the booster of their brand or another, a local health expert shares another crucial message.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — "It was a no-brainer for me," said Gale Bush, a resident on the Peninsula. He said his age and willingness qualify him for a COVID-19 booster shot. 

"I just don't want to catch the virus," he said. 

Bush got a Moderna booster at the mass vaccine clinic in the Denbigh section of Newport News.

The site just opened this week as a community vaccination clinic under the Virginia Department of Health. 

The large-scale clinic at the Sherwood Shopping Center is open Monday to Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.

Leaders encourage scheduling an appointment online. The last ones of the day are at 7:30 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome though.  

RELATED: A look inside the Peninsula's new large-scale vaccine clinic. Where it is, and what to know

On Thursday evening, the CDC gave its stamp of approval for Johnson & Johnson boosters as well.

Anyone 18 and older can get a second dose of J&J, at least two months after the first one.

The CDC also approved mixing vaccine brands. It's a move believed to improve access and, in some cases, offer more coverage. 

Early studies show that a patient who initially received J&J can get better protection if paired with a Pfizer or Moderna booster. 

Moderna's eligibility is the same as Pfizer's.

They're targeting boosters for the 65-and-older age group, younger adults with underlying medical conditions, or those who work or live in high-risk settings.

Moderna's third shot should come at least six months after the second shot. And this time, it’ll be a half-dose. 

“When they looked at the clinical trials, it appeared that the third dose either had similar or less side-effect profile than the second dose," said Cindy Williams, the vice president and Chief Pharmacy Officer with Riverside Health System. 

But with all this booster talk, health leaders stress the other precautions like masking when appropriate, social distancing and receiving the initial series of the COVID-19 vaccination. 

“I don’t want people to lose sight of the fact that there are still a lot of unvaccinated individuals," said Williams. "COVID is not going away any time soon. We'll have ebbs and flows. But the most effective way is still getting that primary vaccination series."

And that's why New Grafton Baptist Church in Newport News opened its doors Friday.

Credit: 13News Now

"We believe in helping folks, loving folks and doing all we possibly can in the community," Rev. Dr. Michael Sumler. "I feel really good about it. My congregation feels really good about it. We just keep on, keeping on, keeping on."

The church partnered with Hampton University's School of Pharmacy to give out first, second and third doses of Pfizer.

New Grafton and HU's mobile health clinic also offered flu shots and COVID-19 testing.

The church will hold testing again next month in collaboration with VDH.