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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Nurses administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Tennessee Riverpark on Tuesday, September 28, 2021. The Hamilton County Health Department continues to administer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Tennessee Riverpark location.

More than 12,500 Hamilton County residents received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — either an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine — in the past month, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

However, local demand for the booster doses is waning.

In August, people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and have a moderately to severely compromised immune system were eligible to receive a third dose at least four weeks after their second dose. Those who fell into the category included people receiving cancer treatment or those who were taking medication to suppress their immune system, because of an organ or stem cell transplant, for example.

In late September, people who met certain criteria and received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months earlier could receive a Pfizer booster. People ages 65 or older in long-term care facilities and those ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes or COPD were recommended to receive a booster. People ages 18 to 49 with underlying conditions were also eligible, as were people facing increased risk of exposure because of their job or living situation.

Tennessee does not require people to show proof of qualification to receive a third dose or a booster. Dr. Lisa Piercey, the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health, said during a news briefing last week she expects a booster for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be available in the coming weeks.

Around 4,000 people came to the Hamilton County Health Department's Riverpark vaccination site last week, between Sept. 27 and Oct. 2, to receive a COVID-19 booster shot. The shots were by appointment only during the first week the county health department made them available.

(READ MORE: COVID-19 vaccine demand in Tennessee, Hamilton County wanes along with summer surge)

Diana Kreider, director of clinical service at the county health department, told the Times Free Press on Monday that demand for boosters was high during the first week of the offering.

On Tuesday, the county health department announced it would no longer require appointments for the booster doses offered at the Riverpark starting Oct. 11. Appointments will be required for boosters at Sequoyah Health Center and Birchwood Health Center.

Kreider said residents can also receive booster doses at pharmacies and other health care providers in the area.

Piercey said communities still need to focus on reaching their unvaccinated populations.

"We're not going to boost our way out of this pandemic," she said. "The single most effective way for us to end this pandemic is to get the unvaccinated vaccinated. So while we're talking about boosters, everybody wants to make sure they're as protected as they can be, our primary efforts should still be getting those who are unvaccinated to get their first dose."

As of Monday, 50% percent of Hamilton County residents were fully vaccinated.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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