Coronavirus

Massachusetts makes COVID-19 vaccine booster available at 460 locations

For now, the appointments are only available to eligible groups that got the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

Registered nurse Claire Karas administers the COVID-19 vaccine last winter while working at a CVS in East Boston. Erin Clark / The Boston Globe

Massachusetts residents can now officially begin signing up to get their COVID-19 booster shots.

After federal officials gave final approval Friday to administering third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to individuals over the age of 65 and those who face a high risk of COVID-19, state officials announced that they are making booster appointments available to eligible groups at 460 locations in Massachusetts.

“The Baker-Polito Administration has been working with pharmacies, local boards of health and other health care providers to ensure eligible residents will be able to access the Pfizer booster vaccines at hundreds of locations across the Commonwealth,” Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said in a statement. “If you have questions about whether getting the booster is right for you, we encourage you to contact your healthcare provider.”

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The vast majority of the locations — 450 of the 460 — are retail pharmacies, including 158 CVS locations carrying the Pfizer vaccine.

To be eligible, individuals are required to have received the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago (those who initially received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine are not currently eligible).

They also must fall into one of the following groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • People 65 years and older
  • Long-term care facility residents
  • People aged 18 to 64 with certain underlying medical conditions, ranging from cancer to weakened immune system to diabetes to being overweight or a former smoker
  • People aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of “occupational or institutional setting,” a group the CDC does not specifically define, but broadly includes workers in health care, schools, restaurants, retail, and other frontline industries

Moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals are also eligible to get an additional dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, as federal officials announced last month (that eligibility is separate from the booster program).

Massachusetts officials estimated that approximately 600,000 residents are eligible for Pfizer booster shots under the federal eligibility criteria. They also said they expect to have the capacity to administer over 300,000 Pfizer booster shots a week by mid-October.

In addition to pharmacies, Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is finalizing plans to provide boosters through other health care providers, including some Regional Collaboratives, local boards of health, and mobile providers.

For now, state officials said that residents can use the Vaxfinder tool at vaxfinder.mass.gov for a full list of hundreds of locations to receive a booster.

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CVS announced Friday that individuals could immediately sign up for a booster shot and strongly encouraged individuals to schedule an appointment in advance through their website.

Walgreens also announced Friday that booster appointments were open to eligible individuals at its locations with the Pfizer vaccine beginning Saturday.

When scheduling an appointment, patients will be asked to provide the manufacturer and date of their last COVID-19 vaccine. Per guidance from the CDC, patients will be asked to self-attest to their eligibility as defined by the eligibility guidelines to help reduce barriers to access for these select populations.

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