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Safeway pharmacist Shahrzad Khoobyari (R) administers a Pfizer COVID-19 booster vaccination into the arm of Chen Knifsend at a vaccination booster shot clinic on October 01, 2021 in San Rafael, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
State officials from California to Maine are telling or allowing their adult residents to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster, bucking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reserve the shots for the elderly and other high-risk groups.
Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Mexico, Vermont and West Virginia are promoting the widespread rollout of boosters for any fully vaccinated adult. New York and Rhode Island are asking adults in elevated-exposure areas to get boosted, while New Jersey and Minnesota are planning to expand eligibility in the days ahead. California’s also asking medical providers not to turn away any adults who request a booster.
The CDC approved third doses last month for certain Pfizer and Moderna recipients at least six months after completing their first two shots. That includes those 65 and older, adults with medical conditions known for causing Covid complications, anyone 18 and older working or living in congregate settings and all adult front-line employees experiencing workplace exposure. Boosters are available for all adult Johnson & Johnson recipients as well, at least two months after getting their vaccine.
“Data indicates that the effectiveness of the vaccine deteriorates over time, and so that’s the reason for the booster,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said at a briefing Monday. “And we want to make sure everybody that’s 18 and over is eligible and is encouraged to get the booster.”
More than 247,000 Arkansas residents have received an additional dose as of Thursday, according to the state’s online Covid-19 dashboard. Arkansas Department of Health spokeswoman Danyelle McNeill told CNBC in an email Tuesday that “the great majority of adults in Arkansas” were already considered high risk by the CDC before Hutchinson issued his recommendation.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice called Monday for all adults in-state to get their boosters, adding that fully vaccinated residents would be “very foolish” not to register for a supplemental shot. Over 53,400 West Virginia residents have gotten their booster doses, the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources reported Thursday.
“I absolutely believe if you’re 18 years of age, you can get your booster shot,” Justice said at a press briefing Monday.
Governors in Colorado and New Mexico released executive orders last week to formalize booster access for their entire adult populations. More than 292,700 eligible individuals in New Mexico and roughly 781,400 in Colorado have gotten a booster, according to the latest data compiled by both states.
“Case counts are significant, spread rates are far too high, and the Delta variant is far more transmissible than previous variants,” Dr. David Scrase, New Mexico’s acting health secretary, said in a statement on Nov. 12. “In addition, our hospitals are well beyond capacity, and several have declared Crisis Standards of Care.”
Almost 93% of New Mexico’s intensive care beds were occupied as of Thursday, with Covid patients taking up 40% of all ICU beds, the Department of Health and Human Services reported. Some 82% of Colorado’s ICU beds were full with 38% devoted to virus patients, HHS calculated.
Kentucky followed suit on Wednesday with an executive order approving boosters for fully vaccinated adults, while Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont all expanded their booster programs this week without resorting to an official order.
New York and Rhode Island haven’t gone as far as allowing all their residents 18 and older to get boosted, but they’re calling on anyone facing increased danger of contracting Covid to protect themselves with another shot. But New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi directed doctors and pharmacists to give boosters to any adult who asks for one.
“We continue to have higher transmission rates, the winter’s coming, our cases have gone up,” Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of Rhode Island’s Department of Health, said at a briefing Tuesday. “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 shot.”
California’s Department of Public Health also issued new guidance on Nov. 9 asking medical providers to administer a booster to any adult who determines they need to further safeguard against the virus.
Officials in Minnesota and New Jersey added this week that they soon planned to simplify their booster criteria. The push to grant broader segments of the general population access to extra doses comes as Pfizer and Moderna submit applications asking the Food and Drug Administration to clear their boosters for Americans 18 and older.
The FDA could authorize Pfizer’s booster for all adults this week. With the CDC’s final approval, fully vaccinated adults could start receiving those shots before Thanksgiving.
“We’ve been communicating with our federal partners that we’re preparing to move ahead independently this week to expand looser eligibility if there is no action at the federal level,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said at a Covid briefing Tuesday.
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