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Mass. officials say 600,000 now eligible for Pfizer booster and it’s ‘safe, effective, and free’

Here's who's eligible for booster shots now.Executive Office of Health and Human Services

Let the boosting begin.

State officials say about 600,000 Massachusetts residents are now eligible for a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine booster shot, and the shots will be available at more than 460 locations, including more than 450 retail pharmacies.

The Pfizer booster is available to people who finished their first two Pfizer shots more than six months ago and who are 65 and older, or are 18-64 with certain underlying conditions, or are at risk because of their jobs or the institution they live in (such as a jail or homeless shelter).

“There are literally hundreds of sites that are already up and operating and available for people to get booster shots,” Governor Charlie Baker told reporters Monday at the State House.


The shots are available “in accordance with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the Baker administration said Friday in a statement, calling the boosters “safe, effective, and free.” The CDC had set the booster guidelines earlier the same day, and the state is following the CDC’s lead.

“The Baker-Polito Administration has been working ... to ensure eligible residents will be able to access the Pfizer booster vaccines at hundreds of locations across the Commonwealth. If you have questions about whether getting the booster is right for you, we encourage you to contact your healthcare provider,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in the statement.

The statement said some appointments were available immediately for booking and more were expected in the coming days.

The booster shots will be available at pharmacies that were already offering Pfizer shots to the unvaccinated, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said.

The state, in addition to working with pharmacies, is finalizing plans with other health care providers, including regional collaboratives, local health boards, and mobile providers. “These sites are expected to open during October,” the statement said. The state expects to have capacity to administer over 300,000 Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots per week by mid-October.


The statement also said that “all Massachusetts long term care facilities, including the two Soldiers’ Homes, have been prioritized for Pfizer booster shots.”

The Department of Public Health offers answers on its website to frequently asked questions on boosters. And it developed an interactive tool to help you understand if you should get the booster.

CVS said in a statement Friday that boosters would be available at “select” stores, noting that CVS pharmacies only offer one of the three major vaccines at each store. A spokeswoman said 158 stores in Massachusetts offer Pfizer shots. Walgreens also said Friday it would offer boosters in stores nationwide.

Here is a detailed breakdown of who’s eligible:

The CDC says the following people should receive booster shots six months after they received their initial Pfizer doses:

— People 65 and older and residents in long-term care settings.

— People 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that make them more likely to get severely ill. The CDC’s list of those conditions is here.

The CDC also says the following people may get booster shots six months after they received their initial Pfizer doses.

— People 18 to 49 with those underlying medical conditions, “based on their individual benefits and risks.”

— People 18 to 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their “occupational or institutional setting ... based on their individual benefits and risks.” The occupational or institutional settings weren’t specified in the statement. But federal officials on Friday said that would include health care workers, teachers, grocery store workers, and people who live in homeless shelters or prisons. A CDC spokeswoman last week also pointed to materials discussed at a CDC advisory panel meeting that suggested a wide range of essential workers would be eligible.


Massachusetts is a national leader in vaccinations. “I look at the data that I see out there, and it’s very clear to me that the fastest path back to normalcy, the fastest path back to the life everybody wants, which is the one they had before the pandemic began, is to get more and more people vaccinated and continue to build on the success we’ve had here in the Commonwealth,” Baker said Monday.

Federal officials approved boosters after concerns were raised that protection from the original set of shots may be waning.

While boosters have been authorized for Pfizer recipients, boosters are not yet recommended for recipients of the Moderna two-dose vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine. Getting a Pfizer booster after a different original vaccine is also not recommended, but “mixing and matching” is being studied. President Biden on Friday urged recipients of those two vaccines to be patient.

Emma Platoff of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com. Daigo Fujiwara can be reached at daigo.fujiwara@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @DaigoFuji.