Ahead of full federal authorization, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Friday gave the OK for all vaccinated adults over age 18 to get COVID-19 booster doses, saying more coverage is needed ahead of the upcoming winter holidays.
Officials from a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel signed off on the third doses Friday morning, and a panel of regulators from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed later that day. Both entities also have authorized them for older adults, people with certain medical conditions, residents of congregate living facilities such as nursing home and workers in high-risk professions such as healthcare.
But ahead of the CDC panel’s vote, Hogan directed health care providers to accept all requests for booster shots among the adult population effective immediately.
“As the holiday season approaches, with more travel and more gatherings, we are encouraging all Marylanders to get a booster shot and maintain their immunity,” Hogan said in a Friday statement. “The state has a robust network of vaccination providers, and we continue to have both the supply and the capacity to provide a booster shot to anyone who needs one.”
The state has administered about 800,000 third doses, Hogan said, and recipients of all three vaccines available in the U.S. — those made by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — can seek them out. People who received the Pfizer and Moderna two-dose regimens are instructed to wait six months after their second dose to get boosted while Johnson & Johnson recipients are required to wait two months.
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A bulletin sent out by the Maryland Department of Health to all health providers prohibits them from turning away anyone who wants a booster dose.
“From the beginning of the vaccine rollout, our goal in Maryland has been to get as many people vaccinated as possible. By expanding booster eligibility, we have made it that much easier for Marylanders to maintain a strong immunity,” health department spokesperson Andy Owen said in a statement. “With winter almost here, the holiday season fast approaching, and our expectation that the CDC’s guidance will support what the FDA has already approved, the time is right for this eligibility expansion.”
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices unanimously backed Pfizer and Moderna booster doses Friday afternoon — it endorsed second doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine in October. CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was expected to give a final decision later Friday.
Earlier in the morning, FDA officials said data proved that those who got third doses were more protected from contracting severe illness six months after the second dose than those who did not.
It will also help eliminate confusion as to who is eligible for third doses and when, said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.
The federal agency said a review of the data showed that individuals who received booster doses demonstrated antibody response to the third doses about a month after injection, similar to how those same people responded about a month after completing their original vaccination series.
Further, regulators determined that the risk of developing serious side effects as a result of the vaccines, such as inflammation of the heart muscle, was outweighed by the risk of contracting COVID-19. Officials said the most common side effects after receiving a third vaccine dose were temporary, and include fever, chills, fatigue, arm pain and swollen lymph nodes in the underarm.