Pharmacies and States Are Making Pfizer Boosters Available

Tens of millions of Americans woke up eligible for booster shots.


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After weeks of planning, U.S. pharmacies and states are making Pfizer boosters available.

A coronavirus vaccination clinic at Shorter Community AME Church in Denver in February.Credit…Kevin Mohatt for The New York Times

Sept. 24, 2021Updated 4:17 p.m. ET

On the heels of federal officials’ endorsement of booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for many fully inoculated Americans, some states announced plans for getting even more shots in arms.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended on Friday morning vaccines for frontline workers, as well as for people older than 65 and many people with underlying health conditions, overruling an agency advisory panel. Individuals must also have received a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

Tens of millions of Americans woke up eligible for booster shots. In one recent poll, about three-quarters of vaccinated Americans said they would opt for a booster if the doses were available, and some sought them out long before they were authorized. Federal officials recommended self-attestation on Friday as the best method to determine who could get a booster dose.

“We’ve worked closely with partners including governors, pharmacies, doctors, long-term care facilities, and other providers, so that eligible Americans are able to get a booster shot at roughly 80,000 places across the country, including over 40,000 local pharmacies,” Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said at a news conference on Friday.

More than 70 percent of current vaccine administration was already taking place in pharmacies, according to a C.D.C. presentation at the meeting of agency advisers on Thursday.

CVS and Walgreens both said on Friday that they were ready to administer boosters. CVS said it will rely on “self-attestation” from customers to determine eligibility.

State health departments generally follow the recommendations of the C.D.C., and many on Friday were eager to move ahead.

In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan announced that all eligible state residents could immediately get booster shots following federal clearance, which he called “long overdue.”

In Indiana, the health department announced that Pfizer boosters were now available to eligible residents.

And in Vermont, officials said that residents ages 80 and older could register for boosters, and the state would expand eligibility to those 65 and older over the next week.

Many states began organizing their booster rollouts shortly after President Biden announced a plan for Pfizer and Moderna boosters in mid-August, but the plan was followed by criticism that the White House was getting ahead of the regulatory process, and internal disagreement in the Biden administration about the need for boosters.

Over the weeks, many independent scientists and regulators had emphasized that there was little research on who might benefit from the extra shots. Eventually the plan to quickly provide Moderna boosters was dropped, to give the F.D.A. more time to collect and study data. And scientific advisers to the F.D.A. and C.D.C. wrestled over the last week with who should get Pfizer boosters and why.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan that will help eligible people access boosters, mainly through pharmacies and their primary care providers. Mass vaccination sites in the state could be reopened, according to the plan.

Understand Vaccine and Mask Mandates in the U.S.

Vaccine rules. On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration granted full approval to Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 and up, paving the way for an increase in mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies have been increasingly mandating vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally allowed and have been upheld in court challenges.Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places within areas experiencing outbreaks, a reversal of the guidance it offered in May. See where the C.D.C. guidance would apply, and where states have instituted their own mask policies. The battle over masks has become contentious in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.College and universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Almost all are in states that voted for President Biden.Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for education staff. A survey released in August found that many American parents of school-age children are opposed to mandated vaccines for students, but were more supportive of mask mandates for students, teachers and staff members who do not have their shots. Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and major health systems are requiring employees to get a Covid-19 vaccine, citing rising caseloads fueled by the Delta variant and stubbornly low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their work force.New York City. Proof of vaccination is required of workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances and other indoor situations, although enforcement does not begin until Sept. 13. Teachers and other education workers in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one vaccine dose by Sept. 27, without the option of weekly testing. City hospital workers must also get a vaccine or be subjected to weekly testing. Similar rules are in place for New York State employees.At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would seek to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later” than the middle of September. President Biden announced that all civilian federal employees would have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements and restrictions on most travel.

Across the country, New York planned to help distribute the shots by making $65 million available to local health departments, who would lead the way on booster distribution, and offering training to more than 50,000 emergency medical technicians to administer the vaccine, Gov. Kathy Hochul said in recent weeks.

“We think it’s really important that more people get this just as an extra layer of protection, like putting on an extra winter coat as the weather starts getting colder,” Ms. Hochul said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that boosters will be made available at pharmacies, nursing homes and on-site at different businesses.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier this month that the city would utilize more than 1,900 vaccination sites across the five boroughs and make various outreach efforts. He said eligible New Yorkers could get boosters “as of this exact moment” in an interview Friday morning on “The Brian Lehrer Show” on WNYC.

Alison Beam, Pennsylvania’s acting health secretary, signed an order on Tuesday that will require vaccine providers to offer online scheduling for vaccine appointments, live scheduling assistance, walk-in appointments and coordination with local care agencies to help schedule homebound residents.

In West Virginia, which faces some of the worst virus conditions of any state, Gov. Jim Justice and public health officials have been calling for federal regulators to sign off on boosters to shore up protection for older, more vulnerable citizens.

“Our federal government moves like a turtle, and a lot of times it moves like a turtle in the wrong direction,” he said at a news conference on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Jim Hoyer, a retired National Guard officer who leads the interagency task force that coordinates West Virginia’s vaccination efforts, said on Friday that boosters were already “being given as we are on this press conference.”

Coral Murphy Marcos contributed reporting.

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