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Staff Photo by Matt Hamilton / Nurses Johaina Poonawalla, middle, and Deb Sardin, right, give a Moderna booster shot to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at the CARTA bus barn vaccination center.

The Hamilton County Health Department is offering booster shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19 as case rates continue to drop compared to months earlier.

On Tuesday afternoon, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger received his Moderna booster at the CARTA bus barn, where the health department is running drive-through operations for Moderna booster shots. Pfizer booster shots, as well as first- or second-dose vaccines, are offered at the Tennessee Riverpark.

Coppinger encouraged people to talk to their physicians about getting a booster dose, or a first dose of the vaccine if they have not.

"We're bumping up against 650 people who have died in our community as a result of this horrible virus," he said. "And anything that we can do to try to mitigate that, we need to be trying to do it. And this is just one way to do that."

People over 18 who have underlying medical conditions or who are at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure or transmission are eligible for a booster shot. Those over 65 should receive a booster dose, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine for their first two doses are eligible for a booster six months after the second dose, and people who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are eligible two months after their first shot.

Moderna booster shots are offered by appointment only at the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority bus barn on Wilcox Boulevard, while the Pfizer booster doses at the Riverpark do not require an appointment.

(READ MORE: Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger announces he won't seek re-election)

Coppinger noted cases and hospitalizations have fallen in the county since the record levels from the late summer surge of the delta variant. On Tuesday, the Hamilton County Health Department reported 88 hospitalizations and 24 people in the intensive care unit with the virus. The county is averaging 55 new cases a day in the past week, roughly a third of what the average was at the beginning of the month.

Getting a booster dose is part of staying vigilant about and protected against the virus, Coppinger said. The county mayor said it is discouraging to see how political the vaccine has become when previously people trusted health experts and got vaccinated against deadly diseases.

"I trust Moderna. I trust Pfizer. And I trust J&J," Coppinger said.

(READ MORE: One Chattanooga ZIP code is nearly 90% vaccinated against COVID-19 while others lag far behind)

The Moderna booster is half the dosage of the first two vaccines, said Andrew Crowe, director of pharmacy for the health department. The booster doses require the same level of ultracold storage as before, he said.

As of Monday, 51% of Hamilton County residents were fully vaccinated against the virus, according to the health department.

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

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