Pennsylvania’s network of vaccine providers is ready to deliver booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine as soon as federal authorities sign off, the state’s top health official said Tuesday.
More than 2,000 providers have COVID-19 vaccine inventory and will be able to administer the extra doses to people who are eligible, while continuing to offer initial vaccinations against the coronavirus, according to the state Health Department.
“Vaccine providers are well prepared to start administering booster shoots as soon as the CDC gives final approval and issues guidance later this week,” Alison Beam, the acting health secretary, said Tuesday at a pharmacy in Hershey.
A panel of outside experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration has recommended extra Pfizer vaccine doses for people aged 65 or older and those who are at heightened risk from COVID-19. The FDA still has to weigh in, as does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Anticipating approvals, Beam ordered providers to offer online vaccination appointments as well as live telephone support, serve walk-ins where possible and work with agencies to help get boosters to people who can’t leave their homes.
In Pennsylvania, more than 1 million people aged 65 and over are fully vaccinated with the Pfizer shot, according to CDC data.
Moderna also has asked the FDA to allow a booster dose of its vaccine. And on Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson said a booster of its vaccine enhanced protection against COVID-19. The results of its study have not been published.
The Biden administration had proposed giving extra Pfizer shots to all Americans eight months after they get their second dose, but the FDA advisory panel rejected that plan, citing a lack of safety data and questioning the need for extra doses across the board.
The preparations for booster shots come as Pennsylvania tries to coax more people to get vaccinated. Nearly 66% of the state’s 12-and-older population are considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Dr. Denise Johnson, the state’s acting physician general, cited the daily coronavirus statistics in pushing Pennsylvanians to get the shot: Nearly 5,000 new, confirmed infections, nearly 2,400 people in the hospital, and 68 “preventable” deaths attributed to COVID-19.
“Millions of Pennsylvanians who are eligible have not yet taken that step to get themselves vaccinated,” Johnson said at the news conference in Hershey. “And that is what is causing our current surge.”