How to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster in Massachusetts
More than one million Massachusetts residents can now get a COVID-19 vaccine booster, following the federal government’s decision to extend eligibility late last week.
After initially approving only a third injection for some groups who received the Pfizer vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now allows some Moderna vaccine recipients, as well as anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. , to receive a booster injection. They also allow people to receive any of the three vaccines as a booster regardless of what they received the first time.
Last week’s move allows more than 750,000 additional Massachusetts residents to receive a booster, in addition to the more than 600,000 Pfizer beneficiaries and immunocompromised people who were already eligible.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration says there are still hundreds of places residents can get that third – or, in the case of J&J vaccinees, the second – dose.
And already, more than 300,000 inhabitants have seized the opportunity.
Here’s what to know if you’re looking to get a booster as well:
Am I eligible?
While the CDC’s decision opens eligibility for recipients of all three vaccines, it still depends on when you received your most recent injection and a few other factors.
Those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for a booster.
And that’s all. There are no other criteria of age, health or profession; Simply put, if you received the J&J vaccine more than two months ago, you can now receive a booster.
It’s a bit more complicated for Pfizer and Moderna recipients – at least on the surface.
First, it must be six months since the date of your second injection of either vaccine.
And second, you must belong to one of four groups that face either an increased risk of serious illness or exposure to COVID-19:
- Individuals 65 and over
- People 18 years of age and older who live in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or residential facilities for people with disabilities
- People 18 years of age and older who have underlying health conditions
- People 18 years of age and over who work or live in high-risk environments
(Although teens aged 12 to 17 may have received the Pfizer vaccine, they are not currently eligible for any booster, Pfizer or otherwise.)
One key point: Neither the federal government nor the Baker administration narrowly defines the lists of eligible medical conditions or professions.
State officials rely on CDC lists. Eligible medical conditions range from cancer and heart disease to diabetes and moderate asthma to those with a body mass index above 25. According to the CDC, examples of eligible workers include:
- First responders (eg, healthcare workers, firefighters, police, group care workers)
- Educational staff (e.g. teachers, support staff, educators)
- Food and agriculture workers
- Manufacturing workers
- Correctional workers
- U.S. Postal Service Employees
- Public transport workers
- Grocery store employees
However, the CDC also notes that the listings do not include “all possible conditions” that qualify for a recall, nor “do they include all potential occupations where a worker might have an increased risk of exposure.”
The agency says other factors – such as local COVID-19 transmission rates, adherence to preventive measures like masks, and unavoidable interactions with people who may not have been vaccinated – play a role in the risks of worker exposure.
The agency does not give specific thresholds, but suggests that individuals discuss their risk with their doctor.
As with the initial vaccine rollout, residents will be asked to certify their eligibility when making an appointment, although they are not required to provide proof of a health condition or an eligible occupation.
In other words, if you think you qualify, you won’t be turned down.
Federal officials say additional groups could eventually become eligible, but current data suggests vaccines remain highly effective in protecting against complications from COVID-19 for those who are not at high risk.
What vaccine booster should I receive?
In addition to expanding eligibility, the CDC’s decision last week also gives individuals carte blanche to get whichever of three vaccines they want as a booster, regardless of which one they received first.
The Baker administration says that “residents who have questions about which recall is right for them should seek advice from their health care provider.”
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said last week that the general recommendation is that individuals stick to the same vaccine they received in the first place.
However, he also said, depending on the availability of local vaccines or personal preference, it is good to ‘mix and match’. While each of the boosts helps boost antibody levels amid concerns about diminished protection, there is early evidence that the two mRNA vaccines – Pfizer and Moderna – provide a significantly greater boost than an additional dose of the J&J vaccine.
How can I get it?
According to the Baker administration, more than 460 sites in Massachusetts now offer callback appointments, the vast majority (over 450) of which are retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.
While there aren’t officially any mass vaccination sites like the initial rollout, the state sponsors several walk-in clinics with the capacity to administer hundreds of boosters per day.
Earlier this month, the state opened two such sites in Springfield and Lowell, with the capacity to administer 300 Pfizer boosters and the ability to scale up to 1,000 per day if demand warrants. The Springfield Booster Clinic is located at 1 Federal St. in Springfield and the Lowell Booster Clinic is located at 40 Old Ferry Road in Lowell.
This Tuesday, two similar sites open in Brockton and Danvers. Located at Shaw’s Center at 1 Feinberg Way, the Brockton clinic will offer Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters and primary series doses. The Danver Clinic at 1 Ferncroft Road will only offer Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson injections.
However, many are likely to have a drugstore with booster shots closer to home.
The Baker Administration’s vaxfinder.mass.gov site has a full list of vaccine locations, which can be filtered by booster and specific vaccine brands. Individuals can enter their zip code and find the closest callback location to them. They can also go directly to the CVS or Walgreens websites to make an appointment.
For people who have difficulty accessing the Internet, the state also has a COVID-19 vaccine resource line (available Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) that residents can reach by calling 2-1-1, then following the prompts for assistance. The hotline is available in English and Spanish, and translators are available in approximately 100 additional languages.
The state also has a home vaccination program for those who cannot make it to a vaccination location.
So what ?
Individuals do not need ID or health insurance to get a booster, which, like the initial injections, is free.
State officials say it may be helpful to bring your CDC vaccination card so your booster dose can be added to it, but it’s not necessary for an appointment.
âYour vaccinator may choose to view your immunization records to confirm the type of vaccine you received previously,â the state website says.
If you want to get a new vaccination card, there are instructions for contacting and requesting a copy from the various vaccine suppliers on the state website.
Also: Plan ahead for potential side effects of the booster.
State officials say current data indicates that the side effects of the boosters are similar to those experienced after the second dose. The most common side effects are localized pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and mild fever. Serious side effects are rare.
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