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Who's Eligible? Maryland Authorizes Pfizer Booster Shots For Vulnerable Adults In Coronavirus Fight

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Maryland immediately authorized Pfizer booster shots following the CDC director's stamp of approval.

Those eligible include everyone age 65 and older who has been fully vaccinated for six months, adults with certain underlying health conditions, adults living in congregate living, and those at risk because of their job. That includes people working in health care.


Here is the bulletin the state issued to vaccine providers with updated guidance.

According to that bulletin, Marylanders are not required to provide proof of eligibility. It states, "Any Marylander who presents to a provider that they are eligible for an additional dose or a booster dose shall be allowed to self-attest to that eligibility. Providers shall follow CDC guidelines when developing their own procedures to allow for self-attestation of patient eligibility. However, providers shall not turn away any individual who self-attests to eligibility for an additional dose or booster dose. Failure of an individual to 'show proof' of eligibility shall not be a reason that a provider does not administer an additional or booster dose."

The decision to include higher-risk workers comes after some disagreement among government health officials. On Thursday, a panel of CDC advisers voted against boosters for frontline workers and others with higher risks of infection in their workplaces, but CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky disagreed. Her decision effectively cleared booster shots for people in "high-risk occupational and institutional settings" as well as other groups.

Governor Hogan said the approval for the Pfizer boosters is long overdue. "We are encouraging providers to conduct outreach to previously vaccinated individuals. If you received your second Pfizer dose at least six months ago, you should strongly consider getting a booster shot," he wrote in a statement.

Hogan, a cancer survivor, revealed to CBS News one month ago that he received his third dose.

Since August, people who are severely to moderately immunocompromised have been able to get the third shots. That group includes transplant recipients and others with severely weakened immune systems.

Maryland has already administered 51,704 additional doses to those who are fully vaccinated. 1,754 people got their additional shots in the past 24 hours, according to the Maryland Department of Health.

Still, state officials said the priority remains convincing the unvaccinated to get the shot.

86-year-old Jay Towson Smith is one of them.

"I'm a little skeptical on the effect the vaccines will have on my medications and heart conditions," he told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. He said he would be more likely to get the vaccine if it was mandated for him.

Here are the frontline workers and other types of employees who qualify for a booster shot, according to the FDA and CDC:

Health care workers
Day-care staff
Grocery workers
Emergency responders

This means that grocery store workers, teachers, nurses and other workers who fall under these categories can now make an appointment at a pharmacy or another vaccine provider and get a third dose. Booster shots are free of charge, with no ID or insurance card required, said Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 response coordinator in a Friday briefing.

National pharmacies such as CVS Health and Walgreens say they are ready to start administering booster shots based on the CDC's latest guidance. There are roughly 80,000 locations across the U.S., including more than 40,000 pharmacies, where people can get boosters, Zients said.

CVS also said it will be ready to provide boosters at its pharmacies and select MinuteClinic locations starting Friday.

"We have the experience and the infrastructure to play a leading role in administering booster shots to eligible populations," Troyen A. Brennan, chief medical officer of CVS Health, said in a statement Friday.

Patients are encouraged to schedule appointments to ensure access to the correct vaccine, a CVS spokesperson said.

If the new rules outlining worker eligibility for boosters are broad, that's by design, said Dr. William Moss, head of the International Vaccine Access Center at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"It was left deliberately vague and ambiguous about who fits into the category of people who should get a booster dose because of their occupational setting," Dr. Moss said.

He doesn't expect the FDA to offer more specifics on what kind of worker may now get a third shot. "I do not think this authorization will have that level of specificity."

Regulators are still reviewing a submission by Moderna, which sought permission last week for booster shots of its vaccine at 50 micrograms—half the dose of its first two shots. Johnson & Johnson has yet to announce an application for approval of a second dose for its vaccine, though federal health officials say they expect the submission soon.

Meanwhile, research backed by the National Institutes of Health examining the safety and efficacy of so-called "mix-and-match" boosting has yet to release results.

Regardless, federal health officials said the initial series of doses—two for Pfizer and Moderna, or one from Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine—would still be sufficient everyone to be considered "fully vaccinated."

"FDA is working closely with Moderna and J&J to get and process their data as quickly as possible, with a goal of making booster recommendations for Moderna and J&J recipients in the coming weeks," Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told reporters on Friday. "This is a high, high priority."

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