All Massachusetts residents 18 and older are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot if they are six months removed from their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two months from the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, state officials said Thursday.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Massachusetts and across New England, officials said residents can receive booster shots from more than 1,000 locations statewide. Governor Charlie Baker said pharmacies have indicated they can handle the anticipated surge in demand for the additional vaccine dose.
“We’ve talked to both the healthcare community and to a lot of the retail outlets that are associated with both our traditional program and a lot of the regional collaboratives, which are still operating,” Baker said. “And they basically said that they believe — we’ve already done almost a million booster shots — and they all said that they felt that they can handle it.”
Regulators had already approved boosters for older people and those who are at higher risk because of underlying conditions or their work or living situations.
Officials said Massachusetts leads the nation in its vaccination effort — more than 94 percent of adult residents have received at least one dose, and more than 81 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated. More than 800,000 have received a COVID-19 booster.
Baker said he hasn’t received a booster shot but “will be getting” one.
“It’s one more piece of protection against COVID,” Baker said. “And as we head into the winter months, there’s always concern about people being indoors more than they’re outdoors.”
Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, noted that “only a very small proportion of our children are immunized at this point. Plus, among adults, the vaccine effectiveness clearly starts wearing off over time, which is why I’ve advocated for a third dose for any adult who is six months past their second shot.”
The US Food and Drug Administration could authorize booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine for all adults on Thursday, and an expert CDC panel will discuss it the next day, raising the prospect of approval by the weekend.
In Massachusetts, residents seeking to book a booster can visit vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of locations. People can also contact the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., by calling 211 and following the prompts.
The resource line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in roughly 100 languages, officials said.
Officials said CDC recommendations permit “mixing and matching” of different COVID-19 booster doses, and residents can choose which vaccine they receive for a booster dose. Residents are urged to contact their health care providers with questions about which booster is right for them.
In Vermont, which expanded booster shots to all adults on Wednesday, Governor Phil Scott said he wanted to get “everyone boosted to help reduce the disruption of higher cases and minimize transmission to at-risk Vermonters, particularly through the winter months.”
In Maine, which also opened up boosters to all adults Wednesday, Governor Janet Mills said that “with Maine and other New England states confronting a sustained surge, and with cold weather sending people indoors, we want to simplify the federal government’s complicated eligibility guidelines and make getting a booster shot as straightforward and easy as possible.”
As of Monday, the seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 residents was 58 in New Hampshire and 52.5 in Vermont. It was 35.9 in Maine and 32.2 in Rhode Island. In Massachusetts, the rate was 27.6.
In July, when hopes for a return to normalcy were high, some states reported less than one case per 100,000 per day.