City, Coronavirus, News

Massachusetts makes Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots available for selected populations

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine vial
A Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vial. The Baker-Polito administration announced in a state press release Friday that Massachusetts residents 65 years of age or older and those with vulnerabilities due to underlying medical conditions are eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot. COURTESY OF LISA FERDINANDO VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots are now available for residents over 65 years old who previously received the Pfizer vaccine, according to the Baker-Polito administration. People over 18 years old who received the Pfizer vaccine and are at high risk for contracting the virus because of their institutional setting or underlying medical conditions can also receive the booster.

In a press release issued Friday, the State said the announcement followed updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Eligible individuals should wait at least six months after getting their second dose of the vaccine before receiving the booster, according to the release. Vaccination locations can be found at vaxfinder.mass.gov. The closest location to campus administering booster shots is CVS Pharmacy at 900 Commonwealth Ave.. 

The Baker-Polito Administration has been working with pharmacies, local boards of health and other health care providers to ensure eligible residents will be able to access the Pfizer booster vaccines at hundreds of locations across the Commonwealth,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders was quoted saying in the release. 

Under the federal eligibility criteria, the Baker-Polito Administration estimated that approximately over half a million residents are eligible for Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots. They are also expected to administer over 300,000 shots per week by mid-October.

An ID or health insurance is not needed to access a booster, the release stated, and it is not necessary to show a vaccine card when getting the shot. 

In August, the CDC said the Delta variant has been responsible for 98% of COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Paul Beninger, an associate professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University who previously worked at the Food and Drug Administration, said the Delta variant infects people over two times faster than previous variants. However, he added that the vaccine is “still very, very effective.”

“Even as new variants come along, and they will, they may not be in big numbers but they definitely will come along,” Beninger said. “The vaccine is going to continue to work.” 

Jarone Lee, an Emergency Medical Specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the Pfizer booster will likely help move Boston past the current surge of Delta cases.

“Adding additional immunity, especially for folks who might have reduced immunity because it’s been a while since their second shot of Pfizer, should reduce the transmission within the community and help us get out of this,” Lee said. 

In its emergency use authorization for the Pfizer booster shot, the FDA wrote that current research shows that “the known and potential benefits of a booster dose outweigh the known and potential risks that the FDA is authorizing for use.”  

Lee said the dose of the booster would be the same as the initial doses given.

“It will be essentially getting a third shot of the same Pfizer vaccine,” he said. “If you got Pfizer, you would have gotten the same thing for the first and second [shots].” 

No new side effects are emerging from the new Pfizer booster shots, Beninger said. 

“That’s actually very consistent with what we know about other boosters, with Hepatitis B boosters, with HPV, and rotavirus all those,” he said. “When people subsequently get boosted, they don’t suddenly come up with new types of adverse events.”

To mitigate the risk of infection, Beninger said masks, social distance and handwashing are effective.

“This is all about herd immunity,” Beninger said. “It’s important to realize that when you get to that kind of threshold level, and then the numbers suddenly drop off really fast.” 

Recipients of the Moderna or Johnson and Johnson vaccines are not currently eligible for the booster.

“Getting vaccinated remains the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves, their families, and their community,” the release read.

 

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