COVID-19 booster shots approved for all Massachusetts residents over 18

Coronavirus Local Impact

BOSTON (WWLP/AP) – Massachusetts residents over age 18 are eligible to receive the COVID-19 booster shot effective immediately, the Baker-Polito Administration announced Thursday morning.

Booster shots should be administered six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months since receiving a Johnson & Johnson single dose vaccine. The COVID-19 booster is free, individuals do not need an ID or health insurance to access a booster and do not need to show a vaccine card when getting a booster, according to the Baker-Polito Administration.

West Springfield Health Director Jeanne Galloway told 22News it’s good to be up to date on your vaccinations especially as we head into the holidays, “We’re seeing a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases right now and we’re expected to increase as the winter comes in and people are closer and you don’t open the windows as much so it’s highly recommended you get a vaccine.”

Galloway said the vaccine and the booster shot are only pieces of a bigger puzzle though and you should make sure you are wearing masks indoors, social distancing and washing your hands.

How to Get a Booster:

  1. Visit the Vaxfinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of locations to receive a booster. Residents are able to narrow results to search for locations that are offering boosters. Many locations will be booking appointments out weeks in advance.
  2. For individuals who are unable to use Vaxfinder, or have difficulty accessing the internet, the COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line (Monday through Friday from 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 9AM-2PM) by calling 2-1-1 and following the prompts is available for assistance. The COVID-19 Vaccine Resource Line is available in English and Spanish and has translators available in approximately 100 additional languages.

In Massachusetts, more than 94% of adults have received at least one dose, and more than 81% of the total population is fully vaccinated, which is over 4.8 million individuals. More than 800,000 residents have received a COVID booster.

Before Thursday, booster shots were only authorized for people 65 and older, those 18 to 64 with medical conditions putting them at risk for severe COVID, and people at risk for COVID because of their jobs.

WHY ARE THERE DIFFERENT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE DIFFERENT VACCINES?

A single shot of the J&J vaccine is less effective than two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer formulas, and health authorities decided it was important for the J&J recipients to achieve a similar level of protection. As for the timing, J&J simply tested more people with a two-month booster than one at six months. For recipients of Moderna or Pfizer vaccinations, there’s no clear data that everybody needs another dose, but immunity against infection in at least some people appeared to wane around six months.

WHAT IF I DON’T WANT TO WAIT SIX MONTHS?

Experts agree that getting a booster too soon can reduce the benefit. Timing matters because the immune system gradually builds layers of defenses over months, and letting that response mature improves the chances another, later dose will provide even stronger protection.

WHAT DOES ‘MIXING AND MATCHING’ BOOSTER DOSES MEAN?

It means a booster of a different brand from your original vaccination. That gives flexibility in situations such as nursing homes where only one type of booster might be brought in. It also gives people at risk of a rare side effect linked to one kind of vaccine the option of switching to a different shot.

SHOULD I SEEK OUT A DIFFERENT VACCINE?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration didn’t recommend that people switch but left open the option. Preliminary results of a government study found an extra dose of any vaccine triggered a boost of virus-fighting antibodies regardless of what shots people got to begin with. For people who originally got a J&J vaccination, the Moderna and Pfizer shots appeared to offer a stronger boost. But researchers cautioned the study was too small to say one combination is better than another.

DO I NEED A BOOSTER TO STILL BE CONSIDERED FULLY VACCINATED?

No, the CDC says people still are considered fully vaccinated starting two weeks after the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the single-dose J&J shot. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky says the definition of fully vaccinated is not being changed for now because not everyone is eligible for boosters at this point.

WILL THIS BE MY LAST BOOSTER?

Nobody knows. Some scientists think eventually people may get regular COVID-19 shots like annual flu vaccinations. But researchers will need to study how long protection from the current boosters lasts.

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