More States Expand Access to Boosters for All Adults, Ahead of F.D.A.

Federal regulators are considering granting requests for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters to be authorized for all adults as early as this week.


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Massachusetts expands access to boosters for all adults, joining several other states.

At a mass coronavirus vaccination site in Natick, Mass., in February.Credit…Pool photo by Matt Stone

Nov. 18, 2021, 2:19 p.m. ET

Massachusetts on Thursday joined a growing number of states in broadening access to coronavirus vaccine boosters for all adults, just as federal regulators consider granting requests for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters to be authorized for all adults as early as this week, according to people familiar with the planning.

The administration of Gov. Charlie Baker announced that all Massachusetts residents ages 18 and older could get a booster, if they met the federal timing rules: six months after receiving the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two months past getting the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

While federal regulators have signed off on boosters for only certain categories of people, some states have used a range of justifications to expand access, including heightened risks posed by holiday gatherings and the pervasive spread of the virus.

In Connecticut, Gov. Ned Lamont encouraged vaccinated adults to get a booster provided they meet timing rules, even if they might not appear to fit into federal eligibility categories.

“C.D.C. speaks Latin, I can’t figure out who’s eligible, who’s not eligible,” said Mr. Lamont at a news conference on Thursday, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If you smoked while you were in high school back in the 1970s, you’re eligible. I think if you haven’t been vaccinated in more than six months, now’s the time to get the booster. Self report, you’re at risk or public facing, you’re out there, get the booster.”

The moves came as Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Vermont also moved to expand access to boosters, following several other states and New York City.

The director of Rhode Island’s department of health, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, announced on Tuesday that all adults could get a booster if they were past the federal timing rules. “Winter’s coming, our cases have gone up and everyone 18 and older is at higher risk of exposure. And so we want the message to go out that you can go ahead and get your booster shots,” she said at a news conference.

Currently, federal regulators say people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, meet timing rules, and are 65 or older, or adults who are considered to be at special risk because of their medical conditions, jobs or living environments are eligible for boosters. Anyone who received the Johnson & Johnson shot can already get a booster two months after the first shot. Eligible people can select from any of three vaccine brands as a booster.

A growing body of early global research has shown that the vaccines available in the United States have remained highly protective against the disease’s worst outcomes over time, even during the summer surge of the highly transmissible Delta variant. And there has been an ongoing debate among experts over whether extra shots are necessary for younger, healthy adults.

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