• The San Juan Daily Star

Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Vermont join other states in broadening access to boosters for all adult

A pharmacy technician preparing Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine in Portland, Maine, in March.

By Dan Levin

Kansas, Kentucky, Maine and Vermont on Wednesday joined several states across the United States in expanding access to coronavirus vaccine boosters for all adults. That comes as federal regulators consider granting requests for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna boosters to be authorized for all adults as early as this week, according to people familiar with the planning.

State leaders have used various justifications for choosing not to wait for federal decisions on boosters, ranging from concerns about holiday season gatherings and winter temperatures pushing people indoors to rising cases and confusion among residents about eligibility. Federal regulators say boosters are available for adults who meet their eligibility categories and are at least six months past their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or are two months past receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccination.

Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky issued an executive order that allows any adult to get a booster, provided they meet timing rules. In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly said that vaccine providers should allow people to determine their level of risk exposure and that the entire state was at high risk, urging all adults to get a booster. And Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont expanded booster access to all adults and said the state would simplify the online registration for state-run vaccination clinics and permit walk-in appointments.

Citing a sustained surge in cases in Maine, Gov. Janet Mills announced that all adult residents would be eligible for a booster shot because of their high risk of exposure across the state.

Currently, federal regulators say people who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines and are 65 or older, or adults who are considered to be at special risk because of their medical conditions, jobs or living environments are eligible for boosters. Anyone who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot can already get a booster. Eligible people can select from any of three vaccine brands as a booster.

The Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention has notified health care providers of the expanded eligibility for the booster shot, according to a news release from the governor’s office.

The authorities in New York City on Monday encouraged all adults to get the booster. Arkansas, California, Colorado and New Mexico have also moved to expand access.

A growing body of early global research has shown that the vaccines available in the U.S. have remained highly protective against the disease’s worst outcomes over time, even during the summer surge of the highly transmissible delta variant. And there has been an ongoing debate among experts over whether extra shots are necessary for younger, healthy adults.

Mills justified broadening access to boosters by saying that since the entire state of Maine had seen significant spread of the virus, it qualified as the kind of high-risk environment for which federal regulators had cleared boosters.

“With Maine and other New England states confronting a sustained surge, and with cold weather sending people indoors, we want to simplify the federal government’s complicated eligibility guidelines and make getting a booster shot as straightforward and easy as possible,” the governor said in a statement.

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