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Where you can get a COVID-19 booster (and why experts say you need one)

A health worker prepares a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.Christophe Ena/Associated Press

With COVID-19 cases on the rise and concerns about the new Omicron variant growing, more Massachusetts residents are seeking vaccine booster shots, pushing the state to find ways to keep pace with the demand.

A booster shot “is the best way to encourage protection for you, your friends, your family, your co-workers, and your neighbors,” Gov. Charlie Baker said during a press conference Friday at the Shaw’s Center in Brockton. Baker himself received a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the facility.

“Demand for boosters has picked up in the last few weeks, which we think is a really good thing,” he added. “We now have a situation where a lot of people are out getting vaccinated or boosted, and that’s great.”

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Here’s where you can get a booster — and why experts think you should.


Where can you get a booster shot?

More than 1,000 locations across the Commonwealth are administering booster shots. That includes pharmacies and neighborhood health clinics, where appointments have been difficult to quickly secure. Weeks-long waits remain, in some instances.

The state also runs mobile clinics at locations like senior centers, high schools, and grocery stores that provide walk-in appointments for a handful of hours. Prepare to wait in line, but here is the complete list of short-term mobile sites.

Other clinics, including the Chelsea Senior Center and Tufts Medical Center in Boston, take walk-ins, too.

Are you eligible for the booster?

Massachusetts cleared the way for all residents age 18 and over to be eligible for booster shots on Nov. 18. People should get their booster shot if they received the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least six months ago, or if they received the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine at least two months ago.

People under 18 cannot yet receive the extra dose. Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize booster shots for eligible 16 and 17-year-olds earlier this week.

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How can you book a booster appointment?

The Massachusetts Vaxfinder website directs eligible residents on where to book their booster dose and filter by vaccine type — Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson. (Remember, you’re free to receive a different booster than your original dose. Here are tips on which shot may be best for you.) Residents have also found success making appointments directly from pharmacies’ websites, like CVS or Walgreens.

Health centers and locations offering walk-in appointments do not require registration.

Is there a booster shortage?

No. Baker has repeatedly said there is no shortage of vaccines, but he noted on GBH radio early this week that there has been a “significant increase” in booster demand since early November.

But the reality is that many residents are unable to get boosted right away, though there are usually open appointments days (or weeks) away. To help alleviate the delay, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said Friday that communities that don’t already operate mobile clinics should consider opening them to increase the number of booster appointments.

Why should you get a booster?

COVID-19 cases across the state have been increasing, along with positivity rates. As of Dec. 2, the seven-day average of reported COVID-19 cases was 2,993, a 154 percent increase from a month before, according to data from the state Department of Public Health.

Health experts and vaccine developers say shoring up our immunity with an additional dose is the greatest defense against spread of the virus. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention also expanded its booster recommendation Monday to include all adults.

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It’s still unclear how effective the vaccines are against the new Omicron variant. But there is a consensus among scientists that a highly vaccinated community is more equipped to fight any strain of the virus than one without inoculation.

Baker also said Friday that the COVID-19 hospitalization rate in Massachusetts would drop by 50 percent if everyone who wasn’t vaccinated got the shots.

How many people in Massachusetts have gotten a booster?

About 55,000 shots are administered statewide each day, including boosters and first and second vaccine doses, Baker said earlier this week. When vaccine demand peaked in the spring, 80,000 doses were being dispensed daily.

Massachusetts continues to be among the most vaccinated states in the nation, according to the CDC. But as of Dec. 2, only about 28 percent, or 1.2 million, of the 4.2 million eligible Massachusetts residents had received a booster.

Do you need a booster to be considered fully vaccinated?

Multiple experts told the Globe they believe the COVID-19 vaccination program will eventually include three doses of an mRNA vaccine or two Johnson & Johnson doses. But that’s not happening right away.

That said, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Axios the boosters will become part of the vaccination series at some point.

“In my opinion, boosters are ultimately going to become part of the standard regimen and not just a bonus,” Fauci said.

Is there a vaccine or booster mandate?

Baker reiterated Tuesday that he will not implement a vaccine mandate in Massachusetts, though Mayor Michelle Wu has hinted that high-risk indoor settings in Boston may soon require a proof of vaccination.

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Diti Kohli can be reached at diti.kohli@globe.com.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.