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COVID vaccine boosters: What you need to know about the latest round of shots

Some Tri-State facilities started giving booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to eligible people on Friday.

“Data continues to show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, so the FDA has authorized this single-dose booster shot for these individuals, at least six months after completion of the primary series of the vaccine,” Maulik Joshi, president and CEO at Meritus Health, said in an email Friday. “We have mobilized our staff to provide this service as we continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic here in our community.”

Robert DeVinney of Hagerstown got a Pfizer booster at Meritus Health on Friday. But he had made unsuccessful visits to four different pharmacies first. He questioned why people were not immediately prepared to administer the doses after federal regulatory agencies approved the booster shots.

"I'm 78 years old, so I met all the qualifications," he said.

The trip to Meritus went smoothly, he said at midday Friday.

"I'm at home now, feeling fine," he said.

Here are some things to know about the latest round of shots.

Who said the boosters are OK?

The authorizations started rolling in on Wednesday, first from the Food and Drug Administration and on Thursday and Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Can I get a booster?

If you're age 65 and older, or if you fall into to other groups of vulnerable individuals.

What are those other groups?

Others approved for the Pfizer-BioNTech booster include:

  • "Those whose occupations or environments put them at high risk for exposure to COVID-19, including health care workers, teachers and day care staff, grocery workers, those in homeless shelters or prisons and more," Meritus said in a statement.
  • People age 18-64 who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 because they have compromised immune systems.

When can I get a booster?

People seeking booster shots should be at least six months out from receiving the  second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, according to Meritus.

Where can I get the shots?

They're available at clinics, such as those set up by Meritus, and at some pharmacies and other health facilities.

For example, in an email Friday, CVS spokeswoman Tara Burke said the company was reviewing the CDC guidance and would be ready later that day to provide booster shots at CVS Pharmacy stores and some MinuteClinic locations that offer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The Meritus Health COVID-19 vaccine clinic is in Robinwood Professional Center Atrium at 11110 Medical Campus Road. It is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

Should I make an appointment?

Yes.

"We strongly encourage customers to schedule an appointment in advance at CVS.com to ensure they are able to access the correct vaccine at a convenient time and location," Burke wrote in the email.

The Meritus announcement said, "Appointments are required for booster shots and can be made through the MyChart patient portal. ... Walk-in appointments for these booster shots are not yet available."

To access your MyChart account or to set one  up, https://www.meritushealth.com/patients-visitors/mychart-patient-portal/.

I got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine. What about me?

According to national reports, the FDA or CDC will probably rule later on booster shots for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.

However, real-world studies of the J&J vaccine showed "that protection against COVID-19 increases when a booster shot … is administered," according to a news release from the company last week.

Also, some particularly vulnerable people, such as organ-transplant recipients, who received the Moderna vaccine can get a booster.

What else are they saying?

Meritus Health: "Anyone who believes their work or daily life brings them in frequent contact with individuals who could have COVID-19 should first speak with their physician or primary health care provider to determine if they are a good candidate for this booster dose."

This article first published in The Herald-Mail in September 2021 and online at HeraldMailMedia.com.

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